The Kenai Central softball team tried its best to ruin crosstown rival Soldotna’s senior night, but couldn’t catch a break in an 8-3 loss to the Stars Friday night in Soldotna.
SoHi batted around in the first inning to score seven runs and held on from there to pick up a big senior night win, the final regular-season game for both teams.
SoHi third baseman Bailey Berger finished with a 3-for-4 day and two RBIs, while shortstop Ashley McDonald ended 2 for 3 and two runs.
Kenai catcher Alyssa Stanton had a huge day for Kenai by hitting 4 for 5 with a triple, and third baseman Kaylee Lauritsen went 3 for 3 with two RBIs and a walk.
Soldotna got off to a sizzling start by bringing 12 batters to the plate in the bottom of the first, allowing the Stars to jump out to a 7-1 lead.
“We like to attack and ride the momentum,” said SoHi head coach Kelli Knoebel. “We had some great stops and fielded well, and it was about making adjustments but not getting into our heads and keeping the pressure on.”
From there, Soldotna lefty Taralynn Frates did her best to keep SoHi ahead, and celebrated afterwards with Emily Jackson as the only two seniors on the team. Frates made it a memorable night with a complete game effort, whiffing two while giving up just three runs on six walks and 13 hits in a seven-inning appearance that punctuated her first season ever as a pitcher.
“It felt pretty good,” Frates said. “I’ve been doing a lot better, my mechanics feel better … our team just needed someone to step up.”
Kenai got things going right away with a leadoff single from Stanton, who later scored on an infield single by Lauritsen to put Kenai up 1-0 early.
Berger got the Stars bats going in the bottom of the frame with an RBI triple deep to center field to tie it, then tagged home on a wild pitch by Kenai to put SoHi up 2-1.
After a run-scoring single by Frates, Bailey Smith had the biggest knock of the frame with a two-run double that made it 5-1. Smith was thrown out trying to leg out a triple.
Kenai head coach John Manley was left lamenting the big first inning for SoHi, a frame that featured three throwing errors that could’ve ended the scoring early, but instead kept the SoHi runners going.
“We had three bad throws to first,” Manley said. “I don’t know what the deal is. We were certainly capable of beating them.”
Later in the game, Kenai caught a bad break during a two-out rally in the top of the sixth with two runners on. Lauritsen singled and Jones drew a walk to bring up Lexy Reis, who swiftly knocked out a single to score Lauritsen.
However, believing Lauritsen failed to touch home plate, the Stars challenged the run when Frates tossed the ball home and the ump called the third out to end the inning, negating the run to Kenai’s dismay.
“We were all aware that she didn’t touch home,” Knoebel said. “It was a coaching decision and it really shut the door for (Kenai).”
Manley had no quarrel with the ump’s decision, noting that Kenai would not have been in a situation to rally if they could have ended the first inning quicker.
“You can’t do what we did in the first and expect to win,” he said.
Kenai missed other chances earlier in the game, including squandering a bases-loaded situation with a lineout by Lexy Reis in the fourth that SoHi center fielder Casey Card snatched away. Card had several highlight plays in center, including an inning-ending popout in the third that would make any SportsCenter list.
Kardinals starter Savannah Jones settled in after the tough start to pitch one-run ball in the final five innings, keeping Kenai in the game until the end. Jones finished with five strikeouts, while giving up 10 hits and four walks.
Homer sweeps Friday doubleheader
The Homer softball squad swept the Houston Hawks in a Friday doubleheader with winning scores of 20-7 and 26-7.
The sweep pushes the Mariners’ overall record to 11-10.
In the opener, Homer drew 14 walks and collected seven base hits, led by a four-walk day by Haylee Owen. Sam Moonin went 2 for 4 with two runs, and Miranda Martin batted in three runs.
Annalyn Brown came on in relief of Becca Chapman in the pitching circle, finishing the final 2 2/3 innings of scoreless, hitless ball. Brown whiffed three while not allowing a baserunner due to hits or walks. Chapman lasted 1 1/3 frames and gave up seven runs on two hits and two walks with three strikeouts.
Houston scored all seven of its runs in the top of the second to claim a 7-1 lead, but Homer responded by plating six in the bottom of the frame to tie it, then added seven in the bottom of the third to stake out a 14-7 lead.
In the late game, Houston once again scored seven in the second inning, but could not overcome a red hot Mariners offense that knocked out 19 hits, led by Hannah Hatfield’s 4-for-5 day, including three RBIs.
Also for Homer, Libby Fabich hit 3 for 3 with four RBIs, Grace Godfrey was 3 for 5 with a triple and three RBIs, and Brown was 2 for 2 with a triple.
Homer batted around and then some in the fourth frame, notching 11 runs to grab a daunting lead.
Godfrey stole four of a team total 13 stolen bases on the day,
Briana Hetrick started and pitched one inning, throwing 53 pitches that resulted in four runs on five walks and two hits. Chapman gave up three runs on two walks and a hit in 2/3 of an inning, and Brown finished the contest with 2 1/3 scoreless frames of one-hit ball. Brown struck out one and walked two.