The Soldotna baseball team lost to West Valley 4-1 in the opening round of the state tournament at Hermon Brothers Field in Palmer on Thursday. The Stars face Sitka in a loser-out game at 1 p.m. today at Hermon Brothers.
Starting pitcher Tyler Fritz kept the game close for the Stars. The score was tied at 1 entering the bottom of the fifth inning.
That’s when Fritz, who recorded three strikeouts and didn’t issue a walk on 64 pitches, allowed a double, single, sacrifice fly and was called for a balk as West Valley scored three runs.
SoHi coach Roger Phillips said Fritz pitched one of his most efficient games of the season, locating his curveball and preventing hitters from going deep in the count.
“This was one his premier performances,” Phillips said. “You’re in the state tournament, facing the No. 1 team from Fairbanks, and he gets us to the fifth inning tied 1-1. You can’t ask for much more.”
The Stars never got it going at the plate against West Valley starter Trey Chiu, who pitched a complete game. Phillips said Chiu threw mostly fastballs in scattering five hits over seven innings.
SoHi put the ball in play, Phillips said, but struggled to get much beyond the infield. Tyler Marcuson, who entered the game with a .556 batting average, was 0-for-3, and fellow slugger Josiah Covey reached base once.
Luke Michael was 2-for-3 with a double, while Fritz drove home the Stars’ lone run.
Phillips said the Stars must string together some hits if they plan on avoiding elimination today.
“You’ve got to put it all together,” he said. “You can win baseball games with five hits, but they all have to be together.”
Marcuson will receive today’s start. Phillips said he saved Marcuson for today because Marcuson, primarily a fastball pitcher, matches up better with Sitka than he does West Valley.
Phillips liked the showdown between Fritz, who uses more breaking balls, and West Valley.
“Fritz is a little bit slower and keeps them off balance a little bit more,” Phillips said. “We tried to go with that mentality, going for better matchups.”