Kenai Central pitcher Jackson Marion delivers to Soldotna on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, at the Soldotna Little League fields in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central pitcher Jackson Marion delivers to Soldotna on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, at the Soldotna Little League fields in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Tuesday baseball: Walks prove costly as SoHi tops Kenai

The Soldotna baseball team defeated Kenai Central 8-4 on Tuesday in Northern Lights Conference action at the Soldotna Little League fields.

By avenging an 11-10 loss to Kenai on May 2, the Stars moved to 6-2 in the league and 8-5 overall. Kenai is 6-4 and 6-5.

Kenai pitchers Jacob Joanis, Jackson Marion and Gabe Joanis combined to issue 12 walks and two hit batters in the game, with seven of the runs being scored by those reaching on free passes.

“If we can eliminate those walks, we probably have a better outcome,” Kenai head coach Luke Oliver said. “Probably, but not guaranteed. At least you make them earn their spot on base.”

The Kardinals had six hits in the game to Soldotna’s five.

The Stars grabbed a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning, then Kenai slowly worked its way back into the game against SoHi starter and winner Colby Sturman.

Sturman went six innings and gave up three runs — two earned — on six hits while walking three and striking out six. The starter had left Saturday’s game against Wasilla after taking a hard grounder to the wrist of his throwing hand.

“He came back and said he was feeling fine and had no pain,” Soldotna coach Ken Gibson said. “We did some flat ground bullpen yesterday just to make sure.

“So he got back out there and it was a good day for him.”

In the third, Kenai got a run back on consecutive singles by Owen Whicker, Daniel Steffensen and Braden Smith.

In the fourth, Zane Pellegrom doubled and scored on a ground-out by Gabe Joanis.

In the sixth, the Kards tied it at 3 when Smith singled and eventually came around to score on a Pellegrom single.

In the bottom of the sixth, SoHi loaded the bases with one out against Marion on two walks and a hit batter.

Andrew Pieh then lined to Smith at shortstop. He got a glove on it but couldn’t catch it, allowing the go-ahead run to score.

Derrick Jones came on in the seventh to slam the door for Soldotna.

Oliver said the game left Kenai confident it can compete against the best in the conference.

“It’s nice to see the guys respond that way and believe they can hit,” Oliver said. “And generally they hit pretty well. They’re not giving up on themselves and they’re keeping their heads up.”

Jayden Stuyvesant had a pair of runs for the Stars. Whicker was 2 for 4 with two runs for Kenai, while Smith had two RBIs and Pellegrom was 2 for 3.

After the game, the Stars honored Hunter Harrison, Sage Cruz and Evan Appelhans for senior night.

Gibson said Harrison has not gotten a lot of playing time, so it was great to watch him play the whole game in right field and go 1 for 1 with an RBI and a run while walking three times.

The SoHi coach said he’s coached Cruz and Appelhans since they were 11 in the Soldotna Little League.

“They’ve been around the last couple of years and they’ve kind of had limited playing time being subs,” Gibson said. “But they’ve stuck it out and this year they’ve had their opportunity to be the guys on the corners.”

There also was a moment of silence for Dan Gensel at the game.

Gensel died Sunday at 66. He was a teacher, coach and administrator at Soldotna High School from 1980 to 1999, then immediately shifted to serving as the sports director at KSRM Radio until his death.

Soldotna head baseball coach Ken Gibson said he had known Gensel for years due to going to church with him and talking sports with him.

“That’s a big deal for this community,” Gibson said of Gensel’s death.

Kenai Central head coach Luke Oliver agreed.

“First, I’d just like to offer condolences to coach’s family,” Oliver said in opening his postgame interview. “It’s tragic what happened.”

Soldotna’s Colby Sturman delivers to Kenai Central on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, at the Soldotna Little League fields in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Colby Sturman delivers to Kenai Central on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, at the Soldotna Little League fields in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Owen Whicker runs away from Soldotna second baseman Trenton Ohnemus on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, at the Soldotna Little League fields in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Owen Whicker runs away from Soldotna second baseman Trenton Ohnemus on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, at the Soldotna Little League fields in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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