The Soldotna softball team suffered a pair of blowout losses at the bats of the Chugiak Mustangs Friday evening at Guy and Judy Hayes Field in Soldotna, but the Stars learned some valuable lessons.
SoHi lost the first game 19-1 in three innings and the second 15-1 in four innings, but with SoHi coach Kelli Knoebel’s enthusiasm matching the hope of the glimmering rainbow hanging over the second game, the Stars will be seeing returns on their investments soon enough.
“It’s a learning experience for us in terms of being smart in the field and being aggressive at the plate,” Knoebel said. “We had energy from the beginning of the game all the way through. It’s all stuff we’ll be able to learn from.”
Alise Arnold brought the power for Chugiak by hitting 4 for 4 with two doubles and three RBI. Teammate Nicole Pinckney hit 3 for 4, Emmie Jennings 3 for 4 and two RBI, and Tracy Hanson went 1 for 2 with a double and two RBI.
Jazi Larrow provided a chunk of SoHi’s offense by going 2 for 3 on the day. Ila Cobb and Alicia McLelland each had a hit as well. McLelland scored SoHi’s lone run in the bottom of the second when Emma Landeis was walked with the bases loaded.
The Mustangs brought an unknown into the second game, as freshman pitcher Allegra Mergen started only her second varsity game, but did well in giving up four hits and striking out three.
“Incredibly pleased with her,” said Chugiak coach Jim Huber. “This time she had a little more control and was more confident.”
Soldotna pitcher Alyssa Corbin was also learning the ropes Friday, getting her first varsity start in the pitching circle. Unfortunately, Corbin’s debut came against an experienced batting lineup.
“Their bats were hot, so for her to step up like that was huge for us,” Knoebel said.
Right from the top of the lineup, Chugiak was hitting hard. Pinckney led off with a single to center field, was followed by a double from Jennings to left field, and both were brought home to score on a double from Alise Arnold that went shooting by two Soldotna infielders to left field.
Arnold then scored on a double from Tori Hooper, and was followed shortly across the plate by Hanson, who was brought home on a one-out single from Claire Bond. All the while, Soldotna was just trying to keep the ball under control in the infield, and by the time the Stars got up to bat for the first time, Chugiak held a 4-0 lead.
“They were aggressive on the bases, they got hits in certain situations,” Huber said. “I just thought it was an all-around good effort.”
Mergen faced four SoHi batters in the first inning, getting two strikeouts before handing it back over to her offense. The Mustangs built up the lead more with a two-RBI double from Jennings, who then scored on a single from Kate Arthen, which pushed the lead to 7-0. By the end of the inning, Chugiak sported a 10-0 lead.
McClelland started SoHi’s turn in the bottom of the inning with a single, and was moved ahead on the bases by Mergen, who walked three straight SoHi batters to score McClelland.
“They’re still a work in progress,” Huber admitted. “I’ve got a couple older girls, but most are younger. I think they’re getting better and better with every game, there’s a little more continuity.”
Two singles and two doubles were the hits needed to score five more runs in the third inning for Chugiak, and that would be all that was needed before the scoreless fourth inning.
Chugiak, which makes the trip down to Soldotna every three or four years, will face Homer on Saturday. Soldotna’s next game is Monday against Homer.