Homer, Soldotna and Kenai Central are all still alive for state berths after the first day of the Northern Lights Conference softball tournament in Homer.
Both the Mariners and Stars are still undefeated at the double-elimination tournament, which will send a pair of teams to state.
Kenai started the day with a 32-20 victory over Houston in four innings, but the Kardinals then lost to Homer 24-2 in three innings.
Today at 10 a.m., the Kards have a must-win game against Kodiak, which won its consolation game 19-4 to eliminate Houston.
Homer and Soldotna will play at 12:30 p.m. for the right to play in the championship and one of the berths to state. SoHi reached the game with a dramatic 19-18 victory over Kodiak in seven innings.
The Kodiak-Kenai winner will play the loser of Homer-SoHi at 3 p.m. The winner of that game moves to the 5:30 p.m. championship and gets the other berth to state.
If the undefeated team loses the championship, the if-necessary game will be at 7:30 p.m.
Soldotna 19, Kodiak 18
The Stars, the No. 2 seed, scored seven runs with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to shock the Bears, the No. 3 seed.
“We had to dig deep,” Soldotna coach Kelli Knoebel said. “The players got together, talked about it and believed in themselves.”
Soldotna was the home team, but Knoebel said Danielle Hills started off the game a little wild and Kodiak, which was swept by Soldotna in the regular season, was up 8-0 before the Stars came to bat in the bottom of the first inning.
“Hats off to Kodiak, they played a great game,” Knoebel said. “We were down most of the game. Kodiak has definitely improved.”
Hills came back to have some solid moments, including striking out the side in the fifth inning en route to nine whiffs for the game.
The Stars went into the bottom of the seventh inning trailing 18-12. Bailey Berger led off with a single, but the next two batters for Soldotna were retired before the rally started.
Tara Lynn Frates made one of the outs in the seventh inning, but she also was the one that came back to rope a single to score the winning run in Taylor Earll.
“Softball is a roller coaster ride,” Knoebel said. “We were able to turn it around. It’s great to see the fight in the kids. It’s one of those emotional wins.”
Knoebel said Darcy Blume was 2 for 3 but even more valuable due to her upbeat attitude. Berger was 5 for 6 with four RBIs, while Jazi Larrow was 3 for 3 with three walks. Ashley McDonald also was 2 for 3.
Knoebel said Carlin Meyer had a great game behind the plate, and also had a clutch triple in the sixth inning that allowed her to eventually score.
Homer 24, Kenai 2, 3 inn.
The Mariners, the tournament’s top seed, cruised past the Kardinals, the No. 4 seed, and into the semifinals.
“Homer’s a good team,” Kenai coach John Manley said. “They haven’t lost a game in the league.”
Annalynn Brown pitched three innings for the Mariners, giving up four hits and two runs — both unearned. She struck out three and walked two.
Savannah Jones took the loss for Kenai, giving up eight hits and 24 runs — eight earned — in two innings. Jones struck out one and walked 13.
On offense for Homer, Mary Hana Bowe was 2 for 3 with four runs and two RBIs, Elsie Smith was 3 for 3 with three runs and six RBIs, Malina Fellows was 2 for 3 with two runs and three RBIs, Kaitlyn Johnson was 1 for 3 with three runs and two RBIs, Annali Metz had three runs and Brown had four RBIs.
For Kenai, Cierra King led the way by going 2 for 2 with a run and an RBI. Jones and Jenna Helminski added hits for the Kardinals, while Patricia Catacutan came back from a strikeout to post a triple in her next turn at bat.
Kenai 32, Houston 20, 4 inn.
The Kardinals, who were the home team, fell behind 9-0 after the top of the first only to come back and win the game.
Manley said Cierra King pitched the whole game and had too many walks early, but came back to post six strikeouts. With King pitching better, a steady Kenai offense was able to come back and win the game.
On offense, Catacutan had two hits, two walks and scored three times, King had three hits and two walks and scored four times, Alyssa Stanton got on every time with three hits and two walks and scored five times, Emily Kociczkowski had four hits, one walk, four runs and two RBIs on a double, and Jones had a double, two walks and three runs.