Friday evening against the Kodiak softball team, it was hard to say which was faster — the pitches that Soldotna sophomore Emily Jackson was firing, or the flood of Stars runners that were coming across home plate.
Jackson threw a no-hitter for SoHi, the first of her young prep career, in a speedy 3 1-2 innings at the Soldotna Little League fields to lead the Stars to a dominant 14-1 victory over the Kodiak Bears. The no-no for Jackson came in her fifth varsity start and second of this year.
Jackson kept right on firing Saturday, giving up one hit and one earned run in four innings of work as the Stars topped the Bears 14-2 in 3 1-2 innings to move to 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the Northern Lights Conference. Jackson struck out two Saturday.
“She’s been busting it all season and off-season, and she went out there today and did what she knows what to do,” said Soldotna coach Kelli Knoebel. “As a coach, that’s what you want for your pitcher.”
Jackson’s style never wavered all game long with a consistent fastball, and said the support she had from the SoHi defense kept her poise high.
“I was really confident throwing that inside ball and pitching strikes, because even if they hit it, my defense could back me up,” Jackson said. “I was able to hit my locations on my fastball.”
In four frames of pitching, Jackson struck out three, walked two and hit a batter, while four other batters got on base on errors. The sophomore got limited time in the pitching circle at the end of her freshman campaign in 2015, as Delaney Crosby-Schneider handled most of the pitching duties. But, with two wins to her name this year, Jackson is quickly heating up.
“Every time I went out there, it didn’t worry me because we were so far ahead,” Jackson said. “I wasn’t really stressed out about the (Kodiak) runners at all.”
SoHi was heating up on offense as well. After a scoreless opening frame, Soldotna blew the game open in the second inning by cycling through 16 batters and scoring 11 runs.
First baseman Schneider and third baseman Ember Lohrke both went 2 for 3 to lead SoHi at the plate. Lohrke had a double and three RBIs, Schneider had two RBIs and Danielle Hills had a single and reached third base on an error, and knocked in two RBIs.
“It helps with the momentum and the energy on the team,” Knoebel said about the offensive outbursts. “A big piece of that was battling through two outs.”
In SoHi’s merry-go-round second inning, the Stars managed to get 11 batters to the plate after two outs were recorded, which allowed them to score nine runs. Overall, all but one Soldotna batter got on base.
“It got Emily some runs so she could go out, keep those balls and strikes low, and dominate on the mound,” Knoebel said.
SoHi catcher Carlin Meyer led off the first inning with a walk, but after Kodiak got two outs on the board, Meyer attempted to score from third on an error and was called out at the plate.
“When we can come back after having a first inning like that, that’s what helps Emily,” Knoebel said.
The scoreless first inning did not faze the Stars. Hills led off the second with a single that turned into a triple on a Kodiak throwing error to first. Hills then scored on a booming double by Lohrke, who then stole third and scored on a passed ball.
From there, Kodiak pitcher Michaela Zurfluetl walked Meyer to load the bases, and the next two runs were scored when Zurfluetl hit Amber McDonald and walked Meghan Ussing, putting the Stars up 4-0.
Hills followed up with a two-RBI single and Lohrke also knocked in a run with a single to stretch the lead to 7-0. Hills made it home on a wild pitch, and an RBI single by Schneider and a two-run double by Jazi Larrow left SoHi with a massive 11-0 lead. The inning finally ended with a strikeout by Kaytlynn Malone.
Kodiak loaded the bases with two errors and a walk at the top of the third, but Jackson worked her way out of the jam to deny Kodiak a hit before ending the frame with a pop fly by Eilis O’Donnell.
In the bottom of the third, McDonald scored on a single by Ussing, who then scored on an error that saw Lohrke reach second, and Lohrke scored on a single by Schneider to cap off the offensive fireworks.
Saturday, SoHi kept rolling on offense, with Lohrke finishing 2 for 3 with four RBIs and Schneider going 2 for 3 with an RBI.
Knoebel said everybody on the team did a great job of getting on base, led by Meyer getting on four times and McDonald getting on three times at the top of the lineup.
Hills got on three times and scored three runs, while Olivia Farrell was on three times and scored twice.
Knoebel added McDonald did a great job at shortstop.
Kenai 19, Kodiak 14
The Kardinals held off a late charge by the Bears to pick up the win in four innings Saturday in Kenai.
Kenai improved to 2-1 overall and in the NLC with the win.
Darcy Blume led the Kards from the plate, going 4 for 4 with five RBI and three runs, including a two-run homer. Emily Koziczkowski hit 2 for 3 with a double and three RBI, and Patricia Catacutan scored three runs on five base appearances. All but one Kenai batter notched a base hit.
Kenai scored five runs in the opening inning and Kodiak answered back with three in the bottom of the frame, but the Kards responded with seven runs in each of the next two innings.
By the bottom of the third, Kenai led 19-3. Overall, Kenai out hit Kodiak 12-5.
Cierra King got the job done in the pitching circle with a complete game. King struck out three and allowed five earned runs. In the first two innings, King only walked one batter and hit another, but in the final two frames, the junior walked four.
Kenai coach Mark King added that Kodiak’s late surge was due to the Kenai defense making errors.
“We kept making mistakes, and that kept them going,” he said.
Juneau 17, Homer 5
The Crimson Bears took a dominating victory Thursday evening over Homer in the day’s late game in four innings.
Juneau-Douglas outhit the Mariners 18-8, led by Sami Good’s 4-for-4 day with three RBIs and three runs.
Riley Walls and Isabel Beach both went 3 for 3 to lead the Homer charge, and Walls scored two runs. McKi Needham went 1 for 3 with two RBI.
Needham also pitched an inning of relief and gave up four runs on five hits. Izabelle Hagge started and went two innings with five earned runs on eight hits. Annali Metz closed the final inning out with seven runs on five hits, and only recorded one out before the mercy rule was called.
Homer took a 2-0 lead right away with an RBI double by Needham, who then scored on a single by Beach.
However, Juneau roared back with five runs in the bottom of the first inning, and built its lead with a run in the second, four runs in the third and seven runs in the fourth.
Sitka 5, Homer 4
The Homer softball squad opened Friday with a close loss to the defending state small-schools champions in Juneau.
Down 5-2 in the top of the seventh and final inning, Homer tried the comeback, starting with an RBI double by Riley Walls, who then scored by stealing home, but Isabel Beach ground out to end the game.
The Mariners took a 2-0 lead at the top of the third inning with an RBI single by McKi Needham and a run from Kyah Doughty.
However, Sitka tacked on three runs in the bottom of the frame to take a 3-2 lead. The Wolves then added two more runs in each of the fourth and fifth innings to boost their advantage.
Needham, Malina Fellows and Izabelle Hagge had two hits each. Both teams notched nine hits apiece.
Needham also got the start for Homer in the pitching circle, going four innings and giving up three runs on five hits, while striking out four.
Thunder Mountain 11, Homer 3
The Mariners lost their Friday nightcap in Juneau to the Falcons, who put away Homer in a quick 2 1-2 innings.
Thunder Mountain scored five runs in the bottom of the first inning to stake out a lead, but Homer closed up with three runs in the second. Walls smacked a two-run double and Doughty scored to cut the lead to 5-3.
In the bottom of the second, Thunder Mountain scored six runs to ice the victory.
Fellows, Needham, Mary Hana Bowe, Elsie Smith and Walls each recorded hits for the Mariners. Thunder Mountain outhit Homer overall 10-5.
Izabelle Hagge and Annali Metz each pitched an inning. Metz started and gave up eight runs on six hits, while walking five batters, while Hagge gave up three runs on four hits.