Pitcher Savannah Jones and the Kenai Central softball team steadied themselves in the face of a fierce Wasilla rally to record a split Friday in nonconference action at Steve Shearer Memorial Ball Park in Kenai.
After losing their season opener 15-5 in four innings earlier in the day, the Kards led 16-5 heading into the fourth inning of the second game before holding on for a 16-15 victory.
Jones had been steady to that point, but a biting wind raking across the infield and a knock on the leg from a play at the plate began to take their toll.
“She was getting tired, but came through in the end,” Kenai Central head coach John Manley said.
D Lawhead ignited the rally for the Warriors by leading off the inning with a home run. After walking eight in the game to that point, and just two in the second and third innings combined, Jones began to have control problems. Eight walks by the Warriors would lead to runners on second and third with two outs and the score standing at 16-15.
But Jones coaxed Sam Kincheloe into a ground-out to second baseman Jenna Helminski to end the game.
While the Warriors stood at 7-2 after the doubleheader, the Kards were getting in their first two games of the season.
“There are a lot of young girls on the team,” Manley said. “I had to give them a crash course.”
The coach said Cierra King did a good job on the mound in the first game, but she was opposed by Wasilla ace Jordan Malave.
“Cierra pitched well but we didn’t give her the offense,” Manley said.
In the second game, Wasilla coach Tyler Gilligan handed the ball to Allison Arndt.
“We have a young team,” Gilligan said. “We graduated seven seniors. It’s a building year. We can’t rely on one pitcher.”
Arndt struggled with her control, walking 15 and hitting six batters. One of the biggest blows came from Kenai’s Randee Johnson, who drove in three runs with a first-inning double. Johnson also scored two runs in the game.
“The younger players were nervous in the first game and made some baserunning mistakes,” Manley said. “They hit better in the second game.”
Helminski and Kiera Duby had three runs for the Kards, while Patricia Catacutan, Jones and Brooklyn Nimcheski scored twice. Catacutan also dazzled with several strong plays at shortstop.
Gilligan said Kenai was a great host, with Kards parents even feeding the Warriors between games. Dani Gilbert was 2 for 3 with two runs, while Kennedie Goulding was 2 for 4 with two runs. Also for the Warriors, Malave, Hailey Hotchkiss and Arndt scored two runs.
Wasilla 14, Soldotna 2, 4 innings
The Warriors scored eight runs in the fourth inning to take control of the nonconference game at Steve Shearer Memorial Ball Park in Kenai.
“We’re developing a new team and we’re getting these girls playing together as a team,” said Soldotna coach Kelli Knoebel, whose team practiced on a field for the first time Friday. “Today was a good experience for us. We learned a lot of things.”
In the fourth inning, SoHi starting pitcher Danielle Hills took a line drive off her shin. Knoebel said Hills was fine, but was taken out as a precaution. Leah McCabe came in for Soldotna after just starting to pitch a few years ago.
“Considering she’s never pitched before, she did well,” Knoebel said.
On offense, Alicia McClelland got on base twice for the Stars and scored. Ember Lohrke had a first-inning sacrifice fly to get McClelland to third, while Darcy Blume was 1 for 1 with an RBI and a walk, Ashley McDonald got a hit in her freshman debut and Tara Lynn Frates walked twice.