The opening day of pool-play at the small-schools state softball tournament saw the Soldotna and Homer squads go 1 for 4.
Homer split a pair of pool-play games, beating North Pole in walkoff style and losing to Juneau, while Soldotna lost a pair to defending state champions Thunder Mountain and Hutchison.
The results leave the Stars and the Mariners in a quarterfinal clash today at noon, just six days after the two conference rivals went head to head for the Northern Lights Conference tournament championship, where Homer prevailed.
Homer and SoHi also met in last year’s state softball tournament, a meeting the Stars won.
The winner of today’s game advances to a semifinal against Thunder Mountain at 2:30 p.m., while the loser drops into the second-chance bracket with a 5 p.m. game against the loser between Hutchison and North Pole.
Thunder Mountain 18, Soldotna 7
The Stars opened up their day with a loss to the defending state champs.
Danielle Hills pitched all five innings for SoHi, giving up 10 hits and nine walks. SoHi head coach Kelli Knoebel said Hills felt under the weather early in the day, but did a great job gritting out the day.
“Thunder Mountain is a great team, and we had some blunders on defense,” Knoebel said. “Danielle pitched great, but Thunder Mountain is a solid team, they hit the ball well.”
Knoebel said Jazi Larrow and Ashley McDonald got on base to start the second inning, then Darcy Blume roped a two-run single to the outfield to score both and take a 3-2 lead.
However, the Falcons scored six runs in the bottom of the frame and six more in the third, while SoHi could only manage to notch two runs in the top of the third, cutting the lead to 8-5 at the time.
SoHi clawed two back in the fourth, but the rally fell short.
Blume ended up 2 for 3 from the plate to lead SoHi.
Hutchison 14, Soldotna 3
SoHi wrapped up pool play with a tough six-inning loss to the Hutchison Hawks.
Hills started for the Stars, but was relieved by Leah McCabe in the fourth frame.
Tied at 1-all after three innings, the Hawks came alive with several runs in the fourth to distance themselves.
Knoebel said McDonald and Blume both hit well, and added that Blume had a “fantastic throw” from the right field fence to catch a Hutchison runner out at third base.
Homer 8, North Pole 7
Malina Fellows sent the Mariners to a pool-play victory Thursday with a walkoff double to end it.
Tied at seven apiece, Fellows smacked the game-winner off North Pole’s Amanda Norton, who was attempting to pitch the complete game. Norton struck out five and walked none, but gave up four earned runs on 16 base hits.
Homer blasted North Pole with 16 hits, led by Kaitlyn Johnson’s 3-for-4 day and Mary Hana Bowe’s 3-for-5 day. Johnson scored twice and Bowe made it home three times, and both hit a double as well.
Annali Metz took the win with four innings of relief from starter Annalyn Brown, who pitched the first three frames. Metz gave up three runs (none earned) with one base hit, while striking out one and giving up no walks. Brown gave up three earned runs on five hits and three walks, while getting three strikeouts.
The Patriots took an early 1-0 lead but Homer scored three in the bottom of the third, then tied it up at 7-all in the bottom of the sixth.
Juneau 14, Homer 2
Juneau pitcher Mia Lorree held the Mariners in check for four innings in the Thursday nightcap. Lorree gave up one earned run on four hits and three walks for the Crimson Bears, while striking out three.
Briana Hetrick went 2 1-3 innings for Homer, giving up seven runs (four earned) on seven hits. Hetrick struck out one while issuing zero walks. Annali Metz and Rebecca Chapman both came in for relief appearances in the third inning. Metz gave up two earned runs on two hits, while Chapman gave up four runs on three hits and two walks.
The Crimson Bears offense was very efficient, plating 14 runs while leaving just two on base. Juneau plated seven runs in the fourth to break open the game.
Tied at two apiece, Juneau took the lead on a steal of home plate and never looked back. The Crimson Bears outhit the Mariners 12 to 4.
Elsie Smith was 2 for 3 to lead the Homer offense, scoring both runs as well.