The Soldotna baseball team showed off its depth and experience in a 13-3 victory in five innings over Kenai Central on Tuesday at the Soldotna Little League fields.
The Stars moved to 2-0 in the Southcentral Conference and overall by rolling up 11 hits, seven stolen bases and not committing an error against the Kardinals, who are 2-1 in the league and overall.
Soldotna coach Robb Quelland was also able to get a look at some of his younger pitchers and, for the most part, they responded.
Sophomores Bubba Quelland and Caleb Spence had two scoreless innings apiece, while sophomore Brandon Crowder yielded three runs in one-third of an inning and junior Matthew Daugherty pitched a scoreless two-thirds of an inning.
“We had some balls drop in on defense but it’s a sign of the maturity of this team that we didn’t get down and make mistakes,” Quelland said, crediting senior catcher Kenny Griffin for his defensive leadership.
Soldotna led 7-0 after four innings and got strong performances up and down the lineup.
For the Stars, Calvin Hills was 2 for 3 with two runs and an RBI, Quelland had a double, two runs and three RBIs, Griffin was 2 for 3 with a run and two RBIs, Joey Becher was 2 for 3 with two runs and an RBI, Crowder was 2 for 3 with two doubles, a run and an RBI, Kolton Wilson was 1 for 3 with an RBI and a run, and Caleb Spence walked and scored three times.
With constant stealing, the Stars put the heat on Kenai’s defense all game.
“We’re built for speed from top to bottom,” Quelland said. “That’s one advantage we have is a lot of athletes.
“We’re going to move runners up into the next phase until they show they can throw us out.”
Kenai Central coach John Kennedy was happy with the way his team was able to hang around in the game despite inexperience.
“I had three first-year players out there,” he said. “We had some situations where the inexperience showed.
“It’s just things they haven’t seen in a game yet. You can talk about it all you want, but they have to see it.”
Facing the 7-0 deficit entering the fifth inning, Ryan Johnson led off with a single, then after an out Jakeb O’Brien doubled. Paul Steffensen then unleashed a three-run bomb to deep left center.
“When he hit it, it was like, ‘Wow,’” Kennedy said.
The rally continued when Dakota Leaders walked, Gavin Petterson doubled and Sam Combs walked to load the bases with two outs.
However, Daugherty was able to strike out the potential tying run in Taylor Landry. The Stars then tacked on six runs in the fifth to invoke the mercy rule.
Petterson started and pitched three innings, giving up six runs — three earned. The junior didn’t play for the Kards his first two years of high school.
“He’s gaining maturity and experience,” Kennedy said.
Connor Jones then gave up five earned runs in 1 1-3 innings, while Steffensen gave up two runs without recording an out.