The Soldotna baseball team defeated Colony and then Kodiak to move to tonight’s 7 p.m. championship in the Southcentral Conference tournament in the Matanuska-Susitna valleys.
The Stars, the No. 3 seed from the Southern Division, will face Wasilla, No. 1 from the Northern Division, for the title at 7 p.m. at Houston High School tonight.
The winner earns a berth to state, while the loser must win Saturday’s second-place game at 1 p.m. for a state berth.
Sophomore Matty Daugherty paved the way for the 11-4 victory over Kodiak, No. 1 from the south, in the semifinal.
Daugherty pitched six innings and gave up one run and four hits while walking four.
“Our philosophy was we knew what they liked to hit,” Soldotna coach Robb Quelland said. “We went with one of the best offspeed pitchers on the team.
“He kept them off-balance. It was masterful work on the mound.”
By the middle of the third inning, the Stars had a 7-0 lead.
Senior David Rue pitched the seventh and allowed three runs, but it was mostly academic at that point.
Brandon Crowder was 2 for 4 for SoHi, while Caleb Spence had a double, and Joey Becher reached base and scored three times.
“We have all the faith and expectation for these kids to do well tomorrow,” Quelland said. “No matter what, we could still come back Saturday, but it’s not our expectation to be in that game.”
In their first game of the day, the Stars defeated Colony, the No. 2 seed from the north, 6-4.
Becher pitched all seven innings, giving up nine hits while striking out five and walking three.
“It’s his time,” Quelland said. “He came out really slow because he had an injury during basketball.
“He’s worked himself into good shape and showed the way he is capable of pitching.”
Soldotna got just three hits in the game, and the Stars were behind 4-1 heading into the sixth inning.
Trayton Bird had a walk and scored on a Justice Miller double. Miller would eventually score on a passed ball for a 4-3 game.
Becher would walk, and his courtesy runner, Daugherty, tied the score by scoring on a balk.
Soldotna continued the rally when Terrance Slats was hit by a pitch and stole second, scoring the go-ahead run on a pinch-hit single by Joel Sisson. Sisson would then score on a Tyler Covey double.
“Time and time again I’ve said we’ve come together as a team,” Quelland said. “We’re young and we’re playing well.”
Wasilla 22, Kenai Central 1, 4 1-2 innings
The Warriors, the No. 1 seed out of the north, toppled the Kardinals, No. 4 from the south.
Kenai falls into the second-place bracket, where it will face Homer at 10 a.m. at Bumpus.
Wasilla jumped on Kenai starter Ellery Steffensen, as he gave up 16 runs — 15 earned — without recording an out.
Although the first 16 players to the plate scored, Kenai coach John Kennedy said the performance by Steffensen was different than the numbers.
“They had a few hard hits, but a lot of the hits were just in the perfect spot,” Kennedy said. “They just fell in no man’s land.
“It just was not our day. Ellery did fine. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve seen lots of runs scored but never that many, that way.”
Taylor Landry pitched the rest of the game for Kenai, giving up six earned runs.
Paul Steffensen was 2 for 2 for the Kards, while Nate O’Lena had a hit and a run. Tanner Wortham had the RBI.
Kennedy said Paul Steffensen led off the game by ripping a shot that was just feet from being a home run. Ellery Steffensen walked and Kenai had runners on second and third with nobody out, but the Kards failed to score.
Palmer 15, Homer 8
The Moose, the No. 3 seed from the north, got an early lead and kept it against the Mariners, the No. 2 seed fro the south.
Homer plays Kenai at 10 a.m. today at Bumpus in the second-place bracket.
Kyle Johnson started for the Mariners and went three innings, giving up 10 runs — eight earned — on 10 hits.
“They were on him,” Homer coach Rich Sonnen said. “Palmer is a good hitting team.”
Sonnen said his squad eventually got the Palmer starter out of the game and was attempting a comeback, but ran out of innings.
Owen Delehanty relieved Johnson, giving up five runs and four hits in four innings.
Delehanty was 2 for 5 for Homer, while Wylie Donich was 1 for 1, Greg Smith was 1 for 4 with an RBI, Michael Swaboda was 1 for 3 with two RBIs, and Johnson was 1 for 3.
The Mariners defeated Kenai twice this season, but Sonnen knows the Kards will be tough.
“I never take a John Kennedy team lightly,” Sonnen said. “He always comes up with something.”