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Soldotna softball reaches NLC final, earns 1st state berth since 2017

The Soldotna softball team secured its first Division II state berth since 2017 by reaching the final of the Northern Lights Conference tournament at Palmer High School.

The Stars (21-8 overall), the No. 2 seed, knocked off top seed and defending champ Kodiak 22-12 on Friday to reach the final.

Soldotna had started out the day by defeating No. 3 Palmer 8-7.

In the third-place bracket, No. 6 Redington defeated No. 7 Houston 16-5 to stay alive in the playback bracket, but the Huskies were then beaten by No. 4 Homer (14-19-2) 11-3.

Also in the playback bracket, No. 5 Kenai (7-19) saw its season end with a 16-14 loss to Palmer.

The winner of the playback bracket earns the NLC’s other berth to state. Saturday, Homer and Palmer play at 10 a.m., then the winner plays Kodiak at noon for the state berth.

The playback winner plays Soldotna at 2 p.m. for the title. If the Stars lose, the if-necessary game is at 4 p.m.

This is the seventh NLC tourney. Homer has won five titles, while the Bears have won one.

Soldotna 8, Palmer 7

The Stars recovered from a 7-3 deficit after the fourth inning by scoring one in the fifth, two in the sixth and two in the seventh.

Aliya Blough won it for the Stars in the seventh on a single that scored Kiara Forkner and Kacey Cunningham.

Isabelle Cruz was 2 for 3 with three RBIs for SoHi, while Tatum Cooper had two runs, Alyssa McDonald was 2 for 3 with two runs, and Forkner was 2 for 4.

Forkner worked the first three innings for the Stars, giving up four runs — one earned — on six hits. Cruz pitched the last four innings, giving up three runs on three hits.

Palmer 16, Kenai 14

The Moose came out on top of the back-and-forth game.

Kenai led 2-1 after the second inning, but Palmer led 8-7 after the third inning and 12-8 after the fourth inning.

The Kardinals cut it to 12-11 after the fifth inning, then took a 14-12 lead after the top of the sixth inning. However, the Moose were able to score four in the bottom of the sixth and keep Kenai off the board in the seventh to secure the win.

Caityln Crapps was 2 for 4 with three runs and two RBIs for Kenai, while Avery Ellis was 2 for 5 with two runs, Kyana Griskevich had two RBIs, and Zoey Riley had two runs and two RBIs.

Lola McEwen pitched the first five innings for Kenai, giving up 13 runs — 10 earned — on nine hits. Griskevich gave up three runs on no hits in one inning.

Homer 11, Redington 3

The Mariners kept their season alive behind a solid outing from Becca Trowbridge.

Trowbridge went all five innings, giving up three runs — one earned — on three hits while walking three and striking out 11.

Trowbridge also scored twice to help her cause, while Emily Owens had three RBIs, Ali Gall was 2 for 3 with two RBIs, Alaiyah Brost was 2 for 3, and Sydney Shelby had two runs.

Soldotna 22, Kodiak 12

The Stars ripped out 14 hits to take care of the Bears in five innings.

Isabelle Cruz went the distance for SoHi, giving up 12 runs — nine earned — on 10 hits.

Soldotna led 5-4 headed to the fourth, but scored nine runs in the fourth and eight runs in the fifth to take control of the game.

Tatum Cooper was 2 for 4 with three runs and five RBIs, While Alyssa McDonald was 2 for 4 with four runs and four RBIs, Cruz was 3 for 4, Bella Gares had two runs, Kiara Forkner was 3 for 5 with three RBIs, Bailey Conner was 2 for 4 with two runs and two RBIs, Aliya Blough had two runs, and Kacey Cunningham had three runs.

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