The undefeated Kenai Central baseball team has shown a myriad of ways to win this year. Wednesday night, the Kards pulled out the “W” with a steal of home.
Thursday, a play at home plate clinched the game again for Kenai, but the roles were swapped. Plus, the Kards had plenty of offense to keep them relaxed.
Kenai Central rolled out a 16-11 Southcentral Conference victory Thursday evening over Kodiak at the Kenai Little League fields, busting out 17 hits in a display of offensive firepower. Kenai improved to 5-0 overall this year, while Kodiak dropped to 1-3.
“It’s pretty good,” said Kenai head coach Steve Nimcheski. “At the beginning of the year, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew how many I had to start with, but we were in the gym all the time.”
Senior catcher Nick Beeson and shortstop Paul Steffensen provided much of the power Thursday by knocking out three hits apiece. Steffensen added a third home run in two days with a three-run blast over the left field wall in the second inning, while Beeson notched four RBI on a pair of doubles.
“When I get to the plate, I look to hit it every time,” Beeson said. “I”m very aggressive from the plate, and I can look at a few balls here and there, but I know what pitch I want and I’m going to hit it hard.”
Beeson also made his varsity debut on the mound, relieving starting right-hander Zach Selinger after one inning and working the next four frames. Beeson wasn’t perfect, giving up eight runs on nine walks, but held Kodiak to five hits and struck out four in a stint that never saw Kenai trail.
“It helps knowing my team is gonna back me up,” Beeson said. “We’ve got some bats out there, and we just got to go up there and feel comfortable throwing strikes.”
Selinger gave up a run on two hits in his lone frame of work, while striking out two. Jakeb O’Brien finished the game with two hitless innings that included one run, three walks and one strikeout.
From the plate, Gavin Petterson went 2 for 5 with a double and scored four runs, O’Brien hit 3 for 5 with a run, and Ryan Johnson went 3 for 4 with three runs.
A leadoff single by Petterson got the Kards going early. Petterson scored the first run on a sacrifice fly by Steffensen, and a grounder by Knox Amend put Selinger home for a 2-0 lead.
Kodiak cut the gap in half with an RBI single by Seth Rockenbach, but a pair of base hits by Johnson and Beeson set up Steffensen for his three-run homer, which gave Kenai a 5-1 lead.
However, the Bears clawed back to tie it in the bottom of the second with four runs, three of them on mistakes. Nimcheski said the errors his squad made are something the Kards need to focus on at this point in the season.
“We’re still giving up way too many runs,” Nimcheski said. “I’d like to see us cut down on the unforced errors, which are more like mental errors for us. We saw some singles turn into doubles tonight, so we’ve got to cut down the runs.”
Tied at 5 apiece, the Kards got back on top with a run scored by Amend on a wild pitch by Rockenbach in the top of the third, which was followed by a two-run double by Beeson with two outs.
Kenai tacked on five more runs in the fifth inning, highlighted by a two-run double by Selinger that dropped into center field, putting Kenai ahead 12-6 at the time.
Kodiak rolled out one last surge in the bottom of the sixth with an RBI single by Louie Rocheleau, an infield error on Kenai, a bases-loaded walk by O’Brien that forced in a run, and a sac fly by Lee.
Beeson said the run support has breathed some life into Kenai in the early weeks of the season, which is beneficial in such a short campaign, and he said he hopes the Kards can keep up the momentum.
“Our confidence is through the roof, we’re not scared of anything,” Beeson explained. “We’re going to hit balls hard and hopefully our pitching gets better. Things can only get better from here on out.”
Soldotna 20, Palmer 9
The visiting Stars invoked the mercy rule after the seventh inning.
Soldotna had a big day at the plate, rolling up the 20 runs on 16 hits.
Hunter Thompson was 4 for 5 with three runs and three RBIs, while Austin Asp was 4 for 5 with two runs and three RBIs, and Logan Smith was 3 for 6 with three RBIs.
Also for the Stars, Jeremy Kupferschmid had four runs, Joel Sisson was 2 for 5 with four runs and four RBIs, David Michael had two runs and two RBIs, and Matthew Daugherty had three runs.
Daugherty picked up the win on the mound, going five innings and giving up six hits and six runs — three earned. He struck out four and walked six.
Thompson gave up two hits and three runs in 1 1-3 innings, while Asp pitched a scoreless two-thirds of an inning.
Homer softball sweeps Kodiak