ANCHORAGE — Another Homer-Soldotna softball game. Another five innings of momentum swings and lead changes.
Another Homer victory.
The Mariners completed a season sweep of their Northern Lights Conference foes, defeating the Stars 11-7 in a loser-out game at the small-schools state tournament Saturday morning at Cartee Fields in Anchorage.
Homer, which advanced to the championship game before losing 8-0 to Sitka, defeated SoHi all three times the clubs played this season.
“Timely hitting,” SoHi coach Dave Cleveland said when asked to explain Homer’s edge. “It’s not one team being way better than the other. They just get those timely hits.”
A day after playing three games in the span of six hours and winning two of them, the Stars were poised to break their losing streak to Homer — at least that’s what it looked like through two innings.
SoHi scored three runs in the top of first and three more in the second to build a 6-2 lead against Homer starter Zoe Fogg, who was yanked for Hannah Larue after registering just four outs.
Alisah Kress, the last batter Fogg would face, drilled a two-run double to deep left-center field to make it 5-2. Kaycee Munn, who finished 3 for 3 with two RBIs, then made it 6-2 with a sharp grounder up the middle off Larue, who allowed one run in 3 2-3 innings.
Homer’s bats soon came alive.
A leadoff walk and an error sparked a four-run second for the Mariners, who evened the game on a two-out Larue single to center off SoHi starter Nikki Hegge.
Amandra Cobb gave the Stars a 7-6 lead in the top of third with an RBI single, but that would be the end of the scoring for SoHi.
“They bat consistently all the way around,” SoHi senior Briana VinZant said of Homer. “We have weak spots in our batting order that they don’t.”
Homer regained the lead in the bottom of the fourth when Larue stepped to the plate with the bases loaded, sending a two-run single up the middle off VinZant, who replaced Hegge in the third.
The lead ballooned to 9-7 when Edrei Evarts laid down a bunt along the third base line. Jordan Sass couldn’t field it as a runner charged home from third. Later in the inning, Kayla Hutt smashed a ground-rule double to deep left center to score two more.
That was all the run support Larue needed as she faced the minimum three batters in the fifth, at which time the game was called due to the 90-minute rule.
“Boy, I was really impressed with the way they dug down today,” Homer coach Bill Bell said. “It was the team cohesiveness. They decided they were going to hit, and they pitched well. They really came together.”
For SoHi, which placed third at state in 2010 and settled for fourth this season, it was a frustrating conclusion to what Cleveland called a good season. Homer beat SoHi 12-7 early in the year and again 5-3 in the season finale to clinch the NLC regular-season championship.
The Stars, who lose Cobb, VinZant, Kress and Madelynn Tice to graduation, were perfect against the rest of the conference.
Cobb said she enjoyed the competition against the Mariners, despite the outcomes.
“It’s always fun playing against Homer,” Cobb said. “We can always keep up with them.”
Kress, who will play summer ball along with VinZant, hoped to see SoHi improve upon its third-place finish of 2010.
“I wish we could have gotten a little farther, more than last year — at least get into the championship — but that’s the way things work out,” she said.
Instead, it was the Mariners who went to the title game, earning that chance by defeating Ketchikan 12-8 following the win over SoHi.
Ketchikan defeated Homer 10-5 on Friday.
The Mariners never got it going in the 8-0 loss to Sitka in the championship contest, but Bell said the team was thrilled to place second.
“I am a little surprised,” he said of reaching the final game.
Meanwhile, SoHi played three games on the opening day of the tournament. The Stars defeated Eielson 18-7, lost to Sitka 10-2 and beat Monroe Catholic 15-3.
Even in the losses, the Stars held a lead at some point in every game.
Cleveland said his squad had as good a chance as any at winning the crown.
“I’ll put them up against any team in the state,” Cleveland said. “Any team that plays against us knows they are in for it. A couple breaks here or there and we’re winning.”
State softball championship
Tina Persinger, Lathrop; Carrie Sauerbrey, East; Elise Mitchell, East; Courtney Evans, West Valley; Shiana McLean, West Valley; Tara Thompson, Dimond; Brittney Coleman, Dimond; Haley Montagna, Dimond; Nikki Olsen, West; Jamie Bingham, West; Devonne Troutman, West; Pauline Tufi, West.
Amandra Cobb, Soldotna; Chelsie Weihing, Ketchikan; Molly Royer, Ketchikan; Hannah Larue, Homer; Richelle Ramil, Sitka; Jule Peterson, Sitka; Stefania Potrzuski, Sitka.