Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Soldotna's Joey Becher dives for first base just before Kenai Central first baseman XXX catches the ball Wednesday at the Kenai Little League fields.

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Soldotna's Joey Becher dives for first base just before Kenai Central first baseman XXX catches the ball Wednesday at the Kenai Little League fields.

SoHi baseball escapes stronger Kenai team with win

The Soldotna baseball team kept its perfect record, while the Kenai Central baseball team kept getting better.

The Stars topped the Kardinals 11-7 on Wednesday at the Kenai Little League fields in Southcentral Conference action. SoHi is 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the league, while Kenai is 2-3 in the league and overall.

The two teams had just played April 26, with SoHi invoking the mercy rule in a 13-3 game.

This time Kenai was able to take a 4-2 lead after four innings before the Stars scored four runs in the top of the fifth to take the lead for good.

“I’m very pleased with the way the kids are battling,” Kenai coach John Kennedy said. “They learn more and more every day.

“They’re paying attention and listening.”

A big difference in the two games was Kenai was able to make Soldotna pay for its aggressiveness on the basepaths in this game.

The Stars still stole nine bases. But they had runners caught stealing in the first and third innings, and had runners thrown out at the plate trying to take extra bases in the first and seventh innings.

“They try and put pressure on you and run you to death,” Kennedy said of the Stars. “We know it’s going to happen, and we got them a few times, and they got us a few times.”

Soldotna coach Robb Quelland said his philosophy would not change.

“We run until they get us out,” he said. “There were a couple of poor choices on the part of the coaching staff, and some of our better runners got a little too aggressive.”

The Stars are a team that loves to hit fastballs, and Kenai starter Paul Steffensen kept them off balance by mixing in slow stuff for the first four innings, allowing just two runs. But Steffensen gave up four in the fifth.

He pitched 4 1-3 innings, with five hits, four of his six runs earned, two walks and three strikeouts.

“He pitched very efficiently until that last inning,” Kennedy said.

Sam Combs pitched the final 2 2-3 for Kenai, giving up five runs — three earned — on two hits while walking three and striking out four.

Soldotna hosts Homer today at 6 p.m. before traveling to play Colony on Friday and Wasilla on Saturday.

“We know we have a busy week so we wanted to get a look at a lot of pitchers,” Quelland said.

Caleb Spence pitched the first inning and gave up two runs — one earned — on a hit while walking one and striking out one.

Mathew Daugherty pitched the next 2 2-3 innings, giving up three hits and two unearned runs while walking three and striking out five.

After Calvin Hills pitched a perfect one-third of an inning, Joey Becher pitched the final three innings. He didn’t give up a hit and struck out seven, but he did walk three, hit one and give up three runs — two earned.

“Daugherty and Becher are probably their two aces, and we were able to get some runs on them,” Kennedy said. “They made good swings and were patient and took pitches when they had to.”

In the end, the Stars had too much firepower on offense, led by Hills finishing 3 for 5 with three runs and two RBIs, and Kenny Griffin finishing 2 for 3 with four RBIs.

Also for SoHi, Bubba Quelland had two runs and an RBI, Mason Prior had two runs, Terrance Slats had two runs, and Caleb Spence had a double and two runs.

“We had some days off before this and there was some rust on the players and the coaching staff, too,” Quelland said. “I’m very proud of how they worked through the adversity.”

For Kenai, Steffensen had a double and two runs, Jakeb O’Brien had a run and an RBI, Connor Jones had a double and Combs had two RBIs.

Kennedy also said he was pleased with Knox Amend’s varsity debut at third base.

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Soldotna pitcher Matthew Daugherty winds up for the pitch Wednesday against Kenai Central at the Kenai Little League Fields.

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Soldotna pitcher Matthew Daugherty winds up for the pitch Wednesday against Kenai Central at the Kenai Little League Fields.

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