The Soldotna baseball team earned its first berth to state since 2016 with a 15-0 victory in three innings over Homer on Saturday in the second-place semifinal of the Southcentral Conference tournament at the Soldotna Little League fields.
The league championship went to Palmer, which defeated Kodiak 8-7 on Friday night. Kodiak defeated Soldotna 17-2 in three innings later Saturday in the second-place game.
The Stars lost their first game of the tournament 6-5 on Thursday to Kenai. That meant the Stars had to win twice Friday and again Saturday to secure the state bid.
SoHi defeated Houston 16-1 and Grace Christian 11-3 on Friday before toppling the Mariners.
“I’m really happy for the players and the families,” SoHi coach Robb Quelland said. “They put all the time and effort into hosting regions. The players were out here 15 hours a day.”
Atticus Gibson powered the victory over Homer. He had a grand slam and a two-run home run.
Quelland, named the conference coach of the year at the conclusion of the tournament, said Gibson puts on impressive batting displays in the batting cage and in practice, but he had not yet homered this season coming into the game.
“It was a coach’s dream,” Quelland said. “The light bulb just came on.”
The Stars also got an impressive start from freshman Derrick Jones. He worked all three scoreless innings and gave up just one hit.
Jones was at his best with the bases loaded in the top of the second inning. Harrison Metz, named the conference MVP, was at the plate and Jones fell behind 3-0. The pitcher worked the count back to full, then coaxed Metz into a fly ball to right field.
“We’ve always prided ourselves on having a big pitching staff at SoHi,” Quelland said. “We only have 14 players, so we said at the beginning of the season that everybody would have to pitch. We had confidence putting a freshman out there in a big game like this today.”
Andrew Pieh was 2 for 2 for the Stars, while Daltyn Deborski had four runs and was hit by a pitch three times, Jacob Belger had three runs, Josh Pieh had three runs, Derrick Jones had three runs and Gavin Jones had two runs.
Austin Ceccarelli had the hit for Homer. Coda Wood started and gave up 10 runs — eight earned — in 2 2-3 innings for Homer.
In the second-third place game, the Bears were able to get 16 hits against SoHi pitchers Gibson and Gavin Jones. Micah Arndt worked all three innings for Kodiak, which put together a 14-run third inning.
Lucas Ellsworth scored four runs for the Bears, while Hunter Williams and Ryan Stephenson had three runs apiece.
The teams that did not clinch state berths at the tournament are still eligible for three at-large berths.
Palmer 8, Kodiak 7
The Moose held off the Bears on Friday night to take the championship.
Palmer led 3-2 after the first, but Kodiak jumped ahead 5-4 after the second. The Moose built an 8-5 lead after five innings, with Kodiak chipping away with runs in the sixth and seventh innings.
Landon Guggenmos pitched six innings for the Moose, giving up seven runs — four earned — on four hits while walking five and striking out seven. Owen Hayes pitched a perfect seventh inning. For Kodiak, Jace Crall gave up eight runs in five innings before Hunter Williams pitched a scoreless two innings.
Palmer had 13 hits, with Guggenmos and Dylan Garrettson each knocking home runs. Kodiak got a home run from Micah Arndt.
Soldotna 11, Grace Christian 3
The Stars won Friday afternoon to advance to the second-place semifinal and end the tournament for the Grizzlies.
SoHi trailed 3-0 entering the bottom of the second inning, but the Stars scored eight in that frame to take control of the game.
Josh Pieh worked the whole game for the Stars, giving up three runs — one earned — on six hits while walking six and striking out one.
Jacob Belger, Josh Pieh and Derrick Jones each scored two runs for the Stars, while Andrew Pieh had two RBIs. Colton Reger was 2 for 2 with two runs for Grace, while Brandon Plaster also had two hits.
Homer 6, Kenai 3
The Mariners topped the Kardinals on Friday afternoon to advance to the second-place semifinal and end Kenai’s tournament.
Harrison Metz went the distance on the mound for Homer, while Gabe Smith went the whole way for Kenai.
Austin Ceccerelli, Coda Wood and Josiah Raymond scored in the first inning for a 3-0 Homer lead.
Kenai tied it up in the fourth inning when Caleb Smith, Charlie Chamberlain and Brady Bostic crossed the plate.
Homer went up 4-3 in the fifth on a run by Gabe Dash, then a home run by Jonathon Gregoire keyed a two-run sixth in which Mylan Johnson also scored.
Soldotna 16, Houston 1
The Stars stayed alive in the second-place bracket early Friday by invoking the mercy rule after four innings and ending the tournament for the Hawks.
Simon Graham pitched three scoreless innings for Soldotna, giving up a hit, while Evan Appelhans gave up a run and three hits in an inning.
Daltyn Deborski was 3 for 4 for SoHi, while Jacob Belger had two runs and two RBIs, Andrew Pieh was 2 for 2 with three runs, Levi Mickelson had two runs, Riley Johnson had three RBIs, Derrick Jones had two runs and Gavin Jones was 2 for 3 with three runs.
Homer 23, Redington 8
The Mariners cruised in the second-place bracket early Friday, finishing the game after four innings and ending the tournament for the Huskies.
Austin Ceccarelli scored five runs for Homer, while Harrison Metz had four, Coda Wood had three, Camden Wise had two, Josiah Raymond had two, Jonathon Gregoire had two and Gabe Dash had three.
Southcentral Conference awards
MVP — Harrison Metz, Homer.
Coach of the Year — Robb Quelland, Soldotna.
First team — Harrison Metz (Homer), Owen Hayes (Palmer), Jace Crall (Kodiak), Jacob Hulst (Grace Christian), Landon Guggenmos (Palmer), Atticus Gibson (Soldotna), Micah Arndt (Kodiak), Dalton Deborski (Soldotna), Jacob Belger (Soldotna), Dylan Garrettson (Palmer).
Second team — Brandon Hina (Houston), Colton Reger (Grace Christian), Adam Smithers (Palmer), Austin Ceccarelli (Homer), Charlie Chamberlain (Kenai), Jack Malloy (Kodiak), Cade Jager (Redington), Johnny Brinner (Kenai), Jason Gundersen (Palmer), Logan Seymore (Redington), Brandon Plaster (Grace Christian), John Gosh (Redington).
Good sportsmanship team — Jacob Banker (Grace Christian), Gabe Dash (Homer), Josiah Bowman (Houston), Wes Katzenberger (Kenai), Ryan Stephenson (Kodiak), Jason Gundesen (Palmer), John Gosh (Redington), Riley Johnson (Soldotna).