A long wait is over for the Soldotna softball team thanks, in part, to patience.
The Stars clinched their first berth to the small-schools state softball tournament since 2012 with a 26-6 victory over Kenai Central in three innings Wednesday at the Steve Shearer Memorial Ball Park in Northern Lights Conference action. The Stars were able to invoke the mercy rule in large part due to waiting out 15 walks.
Soldotna coach Kelli Knoebel took over the program in 2013 and has built it, with the current group of seniors, for over three years to get to this moment.
“We finished it out,” Knoebel said after her squad moved to 4-1 in the league and 7-4 overall. “It’s a chance to go up to state and that’s what we’ve talked about the last four years. Today was all about the team doing what they had to do.”
SoHi’s determination was apparent in the second inning, when the Stars sent 25 batters to the plate and scored 21 runs. Kenai made six errors in the inning, meaning just one of the runs was earned.
“The second inning was just horrible,” Kenai coach Mark King said after his team dropped to 2-4 in the conference and overall. “We committed more errors in that inning than we did in the whole last game.
“Most of them were just silly errors that shouldn’t happen.”
What Knoebel liked was that, despite the long inning, her team was focused throughout against Kardinals pitcher Cierra King.
“Ciera got a little wild and we would not help her out,” Knoebel said. “We stayed aggressive and ready to get runs, and took advantage of what they gave us.”
Knoebel said the best example of that aggression was Jazi Larrow walking in her first two at-bats of the inning and then hitting a two-RBI double her third time at the plate.
Coach King said that other than the top of the second inning, his team showed their potential. The Kards didn’t have errors in the first and third innings.
“If we just could take away the errors in that inning, we’d still be playing right now,” he said.
Larrow finished with four runs and three RBIs, while Amber McDonald had three runs, Danielle Hills had four runs and two RBIs, Meghan Ussing had two runs, Macylea Elsey had two runs, Olivia Farrell had three runs and Carlin Meyer had four runs.
Knoebel was happy she got to slide seniors Jayden Zimmer and Kaytlynn Malone into the game as pinch hitters. Both walked and scored.
Emily Jackson got the win on the mound for the Stars, going all three innings and giving up six runs — one earned — on four hits while walking two and striking out four. Knoebel said Carlin Meyer did a great job of receiving behind the plate.
King said he was happy with the way his team hit against Jackson. Emily Koziczkowski was 1 for 2 with a run and RBI, Cierra King was 2 for 2 with a run and RBI, Darcy Blue had a three-RBI triple, and Patricia Catacutan, Savannah Jones, Samantha Kompkoff and Ashley Segura added runs.
Segura and Annika Oren were honored after the game as part of senior day.