With his team holding a slim 2-1 lead at the top of the seventh and final inning Friday evening at the Soldotna Little League fields, Soldotna baseball coach Robb Quelland had flashbacks of Tuesday’s game against Homer running through his mind.
However, unlike the win against Homer, the Stars were unable to pull out the win, falling to the Wasilla Warriors in a 3-2 loss.
SoHi gave up a late run in Tuesday’s game against Homer on an error due to the infield fly rule at the top of the seventh inning, but still walked off as 9-7 winners on a Mason Prior home run.
Friday against Wasilla, SoHi led going into the final inning, but could not pull off the same magic after a two-run Wasilla rally.
“You can look at it as a negative or a positive,” said Soldotna coach Robb Quelland. “You know, we’re in these games. It’s different than it was in the past. These kids are trying, they’re staying up with them.”
The Stars also lost a 7-1 game to Colony on Saturday, dropping them to 3-6 in the Southcentral Conference and 4-7 overall.
Wasilla bumped its conference record to 7-1 and overall mark to 12-2 with the pair of weekend wins over SoHi and Kenai. Wasilla coach Jason Terryberry said he felt confident in his Warriors squad to get the job done when it counted.
“It wasn’t the prettiest, and SoHi played great and their pitcher did great,” said Terryberry. “We were just able to take advantage of a few things in the last inning to put a few runs across for us.”
Before the late drama, Soldotna junior Joey Becher pieced together a solid outing on the mound, going six innings and giving up one run, six hits, five walks and 10 strikeouts. Becher twice worked his way out of late-inning jams, getting the third out in the second and third innings with the tying run on third base.
Junior Tyler Covey came in for an inning of relief but gave up four hits and walked two in what ended up being the difference in the game. Wasilla pitcher Nolan Monaghan went all seven innings and gave up five hits, eight strikeouts and two walks.
But it was Wasilla senior Buddy Dale that stole the show. With one out and one runner on at the top of the seventh, Dale grounded out on a 2-1 pitch to SoHi second baseman Terrance Slats, who fumbled the ball on contact and allowed Dale to take first base. The error allowed Monaghan to score the game-tying run.
“Coach said to swing at anything coming across the plate,” said Dale, who ended up hitting 2 for 4 for the day. “I saw one that came right across the middle, so I jumped up and put a line drive right in there, as hard as I could.”
Following the tying run, Covey walked Blake Marks and Zach Garnett to load the bases with one out, then gave up the go-ahead single by Jeffrey Forster that scored Dale, putting Wasilla into the lead.
“It was a little mind-boggling, to be honest,” Dale said. “I was pumped, I was getting loud, I was trying to get my team loud to keep the momentum going.”
In the bottom of the seventh, now facing a deficit for the first time all day, Soldotna put in pinch hitter Matthew Daugherty, who promptly knocked a single to center field, giving hope to the home crowd.
However, after Daugherty’s hit, Prior flied out to center field, Caleb Spence lined out to left field, and Covey grounded out to shortstop to end the game. Spence’s line drive was especially excruciating, as it was Dale making the impressive diving catch in left field to record the second out.
“I thought we had it, I really did,” Quelland said.
On offense, Calvin Hills led the Stars by hitting 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI single. Covey, Daugherty and Trayton Bird added one hit apiece. Bird smacked a home run out past the center-field fence to put SoHi on the board in the bottom of the first.
Marks and Trevor Bell also hit 2 for 4 for the Warriors, while Sam Loyer hit an RBI double in the first inning.
Pleased with Becher’s pitching performance, Quelland said he pulled him after six innings simply to keep his pitch count down.
“He’s just coming on stronger and stronger,” Quelland said. “That’s where you gamble, you got to put their safety ahead of the game. He didn’t want to come out, he’s a competitor.”
Colony 7, Soldotna 1
Saturday, the Stars lost again due to a jumble of errors in untimely situations.
The Knights scored four runs in the second inning after SoHi gave up three hits, three walks and a hit batter. Colony added three more runs in the top of the seventh on two errors.
“We faced the first dominant pitcher of the year,” Quelland said, referring to Colony’s Dalton McHugil. “He’s the hardest-throwing pitcher we’ve faced all year, and he had command of his fastball.”
McHugil tossed a complete game with five hits and five strikeouts.
For SoHi, Justice Miller retired all three batters he faced in the first inning, but ended up with three hits and four walks and one strikeout in four innings on the mound. David Rue pitched the remaining three innings, giving up one hit, two runs and two strikeouts, but also gave up three walks that resulted in three runs.
On offense, Calvin Hills hit 3 for 3 with a RBI, while Tyler Covey and Trayton Bird both hit doubles.