Wasilla baseball nips SoHi in semis; Kenai, Homer lose in 1st round

  • By Staff Report
  • Friday, May 26, 2017 12:45am
  • Sports

Wasilla nipped Soldotna 3-2 in nine innings in the semifinals of the Southcentral Conference baseball tournament on Thursday at Hermon Brothers Field in Palmer.

The Warriors, looking for a fourth straight title, advance to today’s 7 p.m. championship game against the winner of Palmer and Colony. Palmer led that game 2-0 in the top of the first inning Thursday when it was postponed due to rain. The game resumes at 9 a.m. today.

Soldotna, which finished second at the tournament last year to earn a state berth, now must win three straight games to earn second this year. That trek starts at 3 p.m. today at Hermon Brothers, when the Stars play the winner of a 10 a.m. game at Hermon Brothers between Kenai and Homer. Both the Kards and Mariners would have to win four straight to take second.

Kenai lost in the first round 6-1 to Palmer, while Homer lost 12-11 to Colony. Other first-round action saw Wasilla top Kodiak 10-0 and Soldotna beat Houston 11-1 in five innings.

The Wasilla-Soldotna semifinal was a rematch of the last two conference championship games, and it did not disappoint. The game was a pitcher’s duel between Soldotna’s Matthew Daugherty and Wasilla’s Hank Boyer.

“I know it wasn’t the championship game, but it felt like it,” SoHi coach Robb Quelland said. “The crowd and the kids felt that way.

“We still believe they’re the best team and we’re one of the better teams in the conference.”

Daugherty went 6 2-3 innings, giving up two unearned runs on two hits while walking six and striking out nine. Boyer went eight innings, giving up two earned runs on four hits while walking six and striking out eight.

“Matthew’s just a warrior,” Quelland said.

Tied at 2-2 after seven innings, the game went to extra innings. In the bottom of the eighth, Wasilla had a runner at second with one out, but Austin Asp escaped the jam.

In the top of the ninth, Wasilla reliever Austin Robertson walked the first two batters of the inning, but escaped.

In the bottom of the ninth, Boyer led off with a single and Alex Clark came on to run for him. Clark was on second with two outs when he bolted for third on a pitch in the dirt. Catcher Cody Quelland threw a little too high to third, then Clark barely beat out a throw from left field to win the game.

Quelland said the close loss stings, but the team shook it off quickly.

“We have a stable of quality pitchers to throw in the next three games,” he said. “The kids are upbeat and excited.

“Wasilla is one of the premier teams in the state of Alaska and we ran with them for nine innings. Our lack of experience and youthfulness was the difference in the game. Our heads are high knowing we still have a chance to go to state.”

Soldotna 11, Houston 1, 5 inn.

The Stars, the No. 2 seed from the south, got their tournament off to a perfect start by invoking the mercy rule on the Hawks, the No. 3 seed from the north.

“We came out very focused and strong today,” Quelland said. “We had good warmups and it really showed on the field. The focus was there and they played well together.

“The defense looked as strong as it has all year long.”

Jake Marcuson got the start and went 4 1-3 innings, giving up five hits and an earned run while walking three and striking out one. Marcuson kept his pitch count low enough so he can throw again Saturday. Logan Smith finished with a perfect two-thirds of an inning and can throw today or Saturday.

On offense, the Stars banged out 11 hits. Jeremy Kupferschmid was 2 for 4 with four RBIs, while David Michael was 2 for 3 with two runs and Marcuson was 3 for 3 with two RBIs.

Also for SoHi, Quelland was 1 for 1 with two RBIs, Smith was 1 for 2 with an RBI, Joel Sisson had a hit, run and RBI and Terence Slats had a hit and two runs.

Palmer 6, Kenai 1

The Moose, the No. 4 seed from the north, avenged a regular-season loss to the Kardinals, the No. 1 seed from the south.

Kenai had struggled to score runs late in the season, and that continued in the opener as the Kards had seven hits.

“Our defense was a problem again, with four of those six runs unearned,” Kenai coach Steve Nimcheski said. “But due to the fact we only put one run on the board, it doesn’t really matter.”

Paul Steffensen got the start for Kenai and gave up one run, leaving with the game tied at 4 after four innings. Steven Norvelle then gave up three runs and Zack Selinger yielded two runs.

Steffensen kept his pitch count low enough so he can pitch Saturday, and Norvelle, Selinger and Jakeb O’Brien all can pitch again Friday or Saturday, but Nimcheski said that won’t matter unless the Kardinals start hitting.

Steffensen finished 4 for 4 to lead the Kardinals, but Luke Guggenmos was able to keep them contained while throwing 117 pitches in 6 1-3 innings.

“It’s not over, but we’ve got a long road ahead of us,” Nimcheski said. “We had hot bats to start the season, but they’ve cooled off. They could heat back up.

“We’ve managed the pitching as best we could to prepare for this stretch.”

Colony 12, Homer 11

The Knights, No. 2 from the north, and the Mariners, No. 3 from the south, engaged in another close game. But unlike the regular season, Colony came out on top.

The difference in the game was back-to-back-to-back errors by Homer to start the bottom of the second. Colony would get eight runs in the inning, so of the 12 runs Homer starter Doug Dean gave up in 4 2-3 innings, only four were earned.

Homer was down 12-3 at the end of the fifth, but scored eight in the top of the sixth to pull within a run. A key blow in the inning was a bases-clearing double by Garrett Butcher, who finished 3 for 4.

But the Mariners could not find another run in the seventh inning.

Seth Adkins was 3 for 4 with a triple for Homer, while Woape Huffman was 1 for 2, and Joe Ravin and Spencer Warren were each 1 for 4.

While Dean threw 118 pitches in 4 2-3 innings, Homer coach Rich Sonnen said the good news is reliever Mose Hayes finished the game with just 14 pitches, so he is good to go today or Saturday.

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