NLC softball: Kodiak wins title; Kenai earns 1st state berth

The Kodiak softball team defeated Kenai Central 18-3 in three innings Saturday in the championship game of the Northern Lights Conference tournament in Homer.

Earlier Saturday, Kenai (11-12 overall) defeated Homer 15-12 to earn a spot in the title game and to earn the conference’s second Division II state berth. This is the first state berth in Kenai’s history.

Before this season, Homer (9-21) had won all five NLC tournaments and had appeared at state in 21 of the past 22 years.

In the championship, Kodiak, which did not lose a game in the conference all season, led 5-2 after an inning and 15-3 after two innings. Kailey Stynsberg led the Kardinals by going 2 for 2 with a run.

In the victory over Homer, Kenai grabbed a 9-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning. The Kards led 12-2 heading into the third, but Homer scored nine in the top of the third to cut it to 12-11.

Homer then tied it in the top of the fourth, but Kenai scored twice in the bottom of the inning for a 14-12 lead. The Kards added a run in the fifth.

After the Mariners got to Lola McEwen for 11 runs in 2 2-3 innings, Avery Ellis came through in relief. She pitched 4 1-3 innings, giving up a run on five hits while walking three and striking out two.

Kenai got to Becca Trowbridge for 12 runs in 4 2-3 innings, then scored three runs in 1 1-3 innings against Ariana Davis.

Stynsberg and Ellis had monster games to get the Kards to state. Stysnberg was 5 for 5 with four runs and four RBIs, while Ellis was 5 for 5 with three RBIs.

Also for Kenai, Maggie Grenier had two runs, Zoey Riley was 3 for 5 with two RBIs, Shelby Hemphill had three runs, and Avia Miller was 2 for 3 with three runs.

For the Mariners, Ariana Davis was 2 for 5 with two runs, Julie Guess was 2 for 5 with two runs and two RBIs, Alaiyah Brost had two RBIs, Keagan Niebuhr was 3 for 5 with two RBIs, Emily Owens was 2 for 4 with three runs, Katelyn Cowdrey was 3 for 4 with three RBIs, and Layla Triem was 4 for 4.

Kenai opens play at the Division II state tournament at Cartee Fields in Anchorage with Thursday pool play that is used to seed a Friday and Saturday bracket.

The Kardinals play against Sitka at 2:45 p.m. and against Delta at 5 p.m. Kenai has not played either team this season.

The two Southeast teams at the tournament — this season Juneau-Douglas Yadaa.at Kale and Sitka — are considered the teams to beat. Southeast schools have taken the top two spots at the tourney since 2013.

The last time a Southeast team failed to win state was in 2008, when Kodiak won.

All-Conference awards

First team — Shanoah Spear, Kodiak; Camryn Frank, Palmer; Hailee Henslee, Kodiak; Ashlyn Bolen, Kodiak; Brook Fischer, Soldotna; Kyana Griskevich, Kenai; Alyssa McDonald, Soldotna; Becca Trowbridge, Homer; Ari Davis, Homer.

Second team — Aurelia Zimin, Palmer; Kailey Stynsberg, Kenai; Danica Howell, Kodiak; Kiara Forkner, Soldotna; Maddie Johnson, Palmer; Addalina Haagenson, Kodiak; Maggie Grenier, Kenai; Morgan Chace, Houston; Aubrie Barrey, Palmer; Taylor Erickson, Houston.

Good sport awards — Emily Owens, Homer; Selene Farris, Palmer; Kasey Cunningham, Soldotna; Teagan Davis, Houston; Scout Devries, Kodiak; Maggie Grenier, Kenai.

MVP — Shanoah Spear, Kodiak.

Coach of the Year — Bob Frates, Kenai.

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