The Soldotna baseball team came up short of the state tournament at Houston High School, losing the Southcentral Conference title game Friday and the second-place game Saturday.
Wasilla defeated Soldotna 11-1 in six innings on Friday to win the Southcentral Conference title. Saturday, Kodiak earned the conference’s second state berth with a 5-2 victory over the Stars.
The Stars, the No. 3 seed from the Southern Division, collected just one hit in the title game. Lefty Nolan Monaghan went the distance on the hill for the Warriors, striking out 13 and walking four.
“They were the real deal,” SoHi coach Robb Quelland said of the Warriors, the No. 1 seed from the Northern Division.
It was the third straight lopsided win of the tournament for Wasilla. The Warriors outscored their opponents (Kenai, Palmer and Soldotna) 52-5 in three games.
“We’re really starting to peak right now,” Wasilla head coach Jason Terryberry said after the win. “The bats have been hot and cold all season. The pitching has been good all season. The defense has been good all season. And the bats showed up this weekend. We hit the ball and good things happened.”
Tyler Covey gave up nine runs in the first two innings for the Stars, while Trayton Bird finished up the game and gave up two runs.
Brandon Crowder had the lone hit for the Stars.
Kodiak 5, Soldotna 2
The Bears, the No. 1 seed from the south, held the Stars to two hits in picking up the state berth.
“We didn’t swing the bats again,” Quelland said. “You can’t win games without scoring.”
Like Monaghan, Kodiak started a crafty lefty on the mound. SoHi, with five freshmen on its 12-man roster, couldn’t respond.
“A lot of it is our youth,” Quelland said. “It’s only the third game we’ve seen a lefty all year.”
Matty Daugherty got the start and gave up five runs and eight hits while striking out two in 3 2-3 innings. Justice Miller recorded an out for the Stars, while Joey Becher pitched a final scoreless three innings, striking out five and yielding one hit.
Mason Prior and Trayton Bird had the hits for SoHi.
Quelland said seniors Miller and David Rue deserve credit for leading such a young team.
“They’ve been nothing but mentors to the younger players,” Quelland said. “They’ve taught them how to play baseball right.”
Quelland also thanked the parents and supporters in the community for a great season.
With half the team set to play with the American Legion Twins this summer, the future is bright.
“It was a great building year,” Quelland said. “We grew so much from that first game with Kodiak.”
Kenai Central 10, Homer 7; Kodiak 6, Kenai Central 5
The Kardinals, the No. 4 seed out of the south, won their first game in the second-place bracket to eliminate Homer, No. 2 from the south. Kenai then ended its season with a loss to the Bears, No. 1 from the south.
Kenai Central coach John Kennedy said it was tough to lose, but considering the team had won one game in the regular season, Kennedy was happy with the victory at the tournament.
“It was fitting the boys ended that way,” Kennedy said. “I know they feel good about what they did and what they were able to accomplish.
“Nobody gave us a chance to do anything.”
Kenai starter Paul Steffensen held the Mariners to just two runs through the first six innings and allowed the Kards to take a 10-2 lead into the seventh.
Steffensen ended up going 6 2-3 innings, giving up seven runs — one earned — on seven hits, while walking six and striking out six.
“Paul did well,” Kennedy said. “He gave up five runs in the last inning but it wasn’t him. We were playing not to lose.”
Nate O’Lena recorded the final out for the Kards.
Wylie Donich pitched the first four innings for Homer, giving up five runs — four earned — on six hits. Kyle Johnson pitched the last two, giving up five runs — two earned — on four hits.
The Kards had four players collect multiple hits in the game: Paul Steffensen was 2 for 3 with three runs; Ellery Steffensen was 2 for 4 with two runs; Tanner Wortham was 2 for 4 and Conner Johnson was 2 for 4. Zack Koziczkowski added a pair of RBIs for Kenai.
For Homer, Michael Swaboda was 2 for 4 with three RBIs, while Donich also was 2 for 4.
Kennedy said it was especially gratifying to see his team bounce back after a 22-1 loss to Wasilla on the opening day of the tournament.
Ellery Steffensen gave up 16 runs in the Wasilla game without recording an out, but he returned the next day to throw a major scare into Kodiak.
He pitched six innings, giving up six runs — four earned — on nine hits while walking four and striking out two.
“It was gutsy,” Kennedy said of the state champion wrestler. “I talked to him two or three times and asked him if he was still able to go.
“His pitch count was up, but I think if I went and tried to take him out, he would have pinned me right there on the mound.”
The Kards actually carried a 5-4 lead into the bottom of the sixth, but Kennedy said a missed pop fly resulted in two runs for the Bears.
“We had the No. 1 seed from our division on the ropes for five or six innings,” Kennedy said.
Ellery Steffensen scored a pair of runs in the game. Kennedy also said Brandon Sorhus continued his solid play of late by getting his first hit of the season.