The Homer, Kenai Central and Soldotna baseball teams came up short of a state berth at the Southcentral Conference tournament Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Redington and Houston high schools.
While Kenai and Soldotna were eliminated from contention for a state berth Friday, Homer was not eliminated until Saturday morning in a 5-3 loss to Grace Christian at Redington.
The Mariners had plenty of opportunities in the game, but left 14 on base. Homer walked 11 times, but only Colby Marion, Johnny Rummery, Gabe Dash and Hunter Warren had hits.
“We didn’t have the offensive production we did yesterday,” Homer head coach Rich Sonnen said. “We got guys on with walks, used sac bunts to get them over, and tried to get them in.”
Austin Ceccarelli went all seven innings, allowing five runs — three earned — on nine hits while walking two and striking out one.
Homer loses Seth Adkins, Austin Dash and Hunter Warren to graduation. Sonnen said this was a building year, and Homer got further than he expected in the tournament, so the future is bright. Of the five pitchers Homer used for the tournament, just one graduates.
Homer 12, Palmer 7
Homer defeated the defending conference champion with a total team effort on offense in a second-place quarterfinal on Friday.
“It was unbelievable for us at the plate today,” Sonnen said. “We had five triples.”
Harrison Metz had two of those triples, including one on the first pitch of the game. Adkins, Karl Wickstrom and Warren added three-baggers.
Metz went 3 for 5 while Adkins was 2 for 5, Wickstrom and Warren were 2 for 4, and Austin Dash, Mose Hayes and Ceccarelli added singles.
Adkins got the job done on the mound, pitching a complete game and giving up seven runs — six earned — on nine hits while walking three and striking out six.
“We had some key defensive plays at the right moments to help us out,” Sonnen said.
Homer 9, Soldotna 3
The Mariners eliminated the Stars from the tournament in a bittersweet moment for both sides in the second-place bracket Friday.
The two programs have close ties because both schools send players to the American Legion Twins program, and Soldotna head coach Robb Quelland is the head coach of the Twins, as well.
“There was mixed feelings for both sides,” Quelland said. “We have friends over on that side and we’re teammates for two months in the summer. We love competing against them, and we prefer to beat them.
“But as a coach, it’s nice to see the growth they’ve made in a short period of time and how well they’ve thrown this season.”
Homer’s Metz plays for the Twins and had a huge game Friday.
Metz pitched all seven innings, allowing three runs — two earned — on five hits while walking three and striking out 11. At the plate, Metz went 3 for 5 with two runs.
Other Homer players who have played for the Twins are Ceccarelli (3 for 5, two runs), Adkins (two RBIs) and Hayes (two runs). Also for the Mariners, Dash and Coda Wood each had two RBIs. Sonnen again said the key was getting offense from througout the lineup.
“We just didn’t hit well and made a couple of errors,” Quelland said. “It was nothing serious, but they’re a solid team.”
Tanner Ussing got the start and went five innings for the Stars, giving up four runs on five hits while walking five and striking out two. Atticus Gibson gave up four runs — three earned — on four hits in one-third of an inning, Chris Jaime gave up a hit and unearned run without recording an out, and Josh Pieh did not give up a hit or run in 1 2-3 innings.
David Michael, Ussing, Jacob Boze, Brennen Werner and Davey Belger had the hits for SoHi, while Michael scored two runs.
Quelland said the team had some experienced players with a lot of youth mixed in, and those young players learned this year where they have to improve to make the Stars one of the top teams in the conference.
“The family and parents have been great this season,” Quelland said.
Grace 26, Kenai 3, 5 innings
The Grizzlies ended the Kardinals’ season by invoking the mercy rule in the second-place bracket Friday.
Kenai coach Luke Oliver said his squad actually got on top in the first inning, but he said Grace hit the ball well and Kenai committed just enough errors to make the blowout possible. Caleb Smith, Knox Amend and Sam Berry pitched for the Kardinals.
On offense, Simon Grenier was 2 for 3 while Harold Ochea was 1 for 2.
“Overall, I don’t want to say it was a successful season, but it was better than last year as far as being competitive with the team,” Oliver said. “We’re still a young team. We just have to remember what we learned and apply it to next year.”
Oliver also said he appreciates the support the program continues to receive from families and the communities.
“I appreciate the fans that came up and supported us all year,” he said.
Wasilla 4, Colony 1
The Warriors won their fourth conference title in five years by topping the Knights on Friday night.
Wasilla had reached the title game by topping Palmer 9-2, while Colony beat Kodiak 9-2 to earn the other berth in the final.