The Soldotna baseball team is two wins away from a second-straight state berth.
The Stars topped Homer 4-2 in the second-place bracket to eliminate the Mariners on Friday at the Southcentral Conference tournament at Hermon Brothers Field in Palmer. Earlier in the day, Homer had sent Kenai packing with a 15-0 win in five innings.
The Stars play Kodiak today at 10 a.m. for the right to get to the second-place game. The winner of the second-place game, slated for 1 p.m., goes to state.
Soldotna 4, Homer 2
The Stars, the No. 2 seed from the south, used a three-run fifth inning to win the rubber match in the season series with the Mariners, No. 3 from the south, and stay alive in the tournament.
Both pitchers did exactly what was asked of them. Logan Smith pitched all seven innings for Soldotna, giving up two runs — one earned — on six hits while walking none and whiffing three.
“He was phenomenal on the mound,” Soldotna coach Robb Quelland said. “He was very efficient — two to one on strikes vs. balls.”
For Homer, Mose Hayes pitched six innings and yielded four runs — three earned — on two hits while walking three and striking out two.
The game was tied at 1 entering the fifth after each team scored in the fourth. For Homer, Doug Dean had reached on an error and scored on a grounder from Kyle Wells. For Homer, Cody Quelland walked and scored on an error.
Free bases would haunt the Mariners in the fifth when Terence Slats was hit by a pitch and scored, and Quelland was walked and scored on a single by Caleb Spence. Spence would score on an error.
Homer coach Rich Sonnen said a big turning point in the game was when his team left the bases loaded in the third inning.
Quelland said the Mariners are a young team with a bright future, so he’s happy to advance after taking a tough loss to Wasilla in Thursday’s semis.
“We didn’t play one of our greatest games,” Quelland said. “It is hardest to play after playing an emotional game the night before.”
Joe Ravin was 2 for 4 for Homer, while Homer’s Seth Adkins and SoHi’s David Michael had doubles.
Sonnen said the loss was tough to swallow because the Mariners had enough pitching left for two potential games today.
“We were kind of peaking at the right time, but we’re still young and it looks good for the future,” said Sonnen, who will lose seniors Garrett Butcher and Woape Huffman.
Homer 15, Kenai 0, 5 inn.
The Mariners, the No. 3 seed from the south, dismissed the Kardinals, No. 1 from the south, from the tournament.
The Kardinals continued to struggle at the plate thanks to Butcher. He pitched all five innings and gave up three hits while striking out seven and walking three.
Meanwhile, Zack Selinger and Steven Norvelle could not slow down Homer’s bats, as every player had at least one hit.
Ravin and Butcher each had a double and a single for the Mariners, while Adkins was 2 for 3, Doug Dean was 2 for 3, Kyle Wells was 2 for 3 and Hayes added a double.