It wasn’t the no-hitter that already adorns her varsity record, but Soldotna Stars pitcher Emily Jackson was on her game again Wednesday afternoon at the Soldotna softball fields.
Jackson led SoHi to a 16-4 victory in 3 1-2 innings over close rival Kenai Central, dealing six strikeouts and giving up just three hits and two walks.
“We have a team that is dialed in and focused,” said Soldotna coach Kelli Knoebel.
After tossing a no-hitter last Friday against Kodiak, Jackson started hot again Wednesday with consecutive strikeouts against the top of Kenai’s lineup in the first inning, and did so while branching out from her fastball.
“She was throwing all her pitches today, and getting her locations,” Knoebel said. “A pitchers job isn’t to have the defense work. It’s to get the ball across the plate, put it in play and maybe let her defense do what they can do.
“She never wavered.”
Amber McDonald scored on a passed ball in the bottom of the fourth to invoke the 12-run rule, ending the game on the spot.
With the win, SoHi improved to 3-0 in the Northern Lights Conference and 4-0 overall, while Kenai dropped to 2-3 overall and in the conference.
Backing up Jackson was a humming Stars offense, but the mistake-prone Kardinals also helped the Stars stay alive throughout the innings. SoHi scored seven runs in the first inning — two on fielding errors and five on passed balls or wild pitches — to stake out a large lead, and batted through 11 players before ending the frame on a pop out by McDonald.
“When you can bat through the lineup first time through, it gives you energy and the momentum,” Knoebel said. “We made a few mental mistakes out there, but after they scored in the second (inning) we came back and scored five more.”
Daniell Hills led Soldotna by hitting 2 for 3, including a triple in the bottom of the third that was stretched into a run on a Kenai throwing error to third base.
Four Soldotna batters reached base on Kenai errors, and another three reached on either passed balls or hit pitches by Kenai pitcher Cierra King. King gave up three hits and walked 12, while striking out two.
Kenai Central coach Mark King said the team made a lot of positive plays, but little mistakes continued to haunt the Kards.
“We had a few mental meltdowns that cost us, and that kept the innings going,” King said. “Quite honestly, our hitting did okay, but this is a much better hitting team than we showed today.”
Kenai had a pair of stellar outfield plays, including an inning-ending pop fly catch by freshman center fielder Caitlyn Burdick, who collided with senior right fielder Annika Oren at the moment of the grab but managed to hold on for the third out in the third frame.
“We’ve had better outfield play this year than in the past,” King said.
After McDonald scored on a passed ball to notch the first run, Delany Crosby-Schneider brought Hills home on an error that left her at third base. Two batters later, an errant throw to first base left Meghan Ussing at second and scored Olivia Farrell, pushing SoHi’s lead to 4-0.
Ussing scored on a passed ball, and Jazi Larrow scored on a wild pitch after getting on base with a walk, giving the Stars a 6-0 lead.
“Every time we came up, we didn’t quit, we were patient, we trusted what we could do, and we moved people on the base path,” Knoebel said.
Kenai attempted a comeback in the top of the second inning, starting with a two-out, two-RBI double by Patricia Catacutan that brought Savannah Jones and Samantha Kompkoff across the plate. Later, a line drive by Emily Koziczkowski scored Alyssa Stanton and Catacutan, closing up the lead to 7-4.
However, a hit by King was caught in a leaping snag by Hills at second base to end the inning and the rally.
In the bottom of the second, SoHi tacked on five more runs, starting with a two-out, two-RBI double by Ussing to right field.