The end of the season for the Kenai Central softball team marked a new beginning for the Skyview softball team.
The Panthers stormed back from a 14-4 deficit in the fifth inning to beat the Kardinals 18-17 on Wednesday in Northern Lights Conference play at the Soldotna Little League fields.
The win was the first for Skyview in the three-year history of the varsity program. The Panthers finish up their season with games in Kodiak today and Friday, while the Kardinals complete their season at 5-5 in the league and 9-9 overall.
"It was much better than we played all year," Skyview coach Steve Schoessler said. "We had some errors, but we didn't let them build up on each other."
The Kardinals were just two outs from ending the game due to the mercy rule in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Kenai pitcher Briana King had only given up one hit heading into the fifth, but Skyview's bats warmed up in a hurry to avoid the loss.
"We had a hard time hitting Briana at the beginning, but we started zeroing in," Schoessler said. "In practice, we've been drilling the ball.
"Once we get comfortable with the pitcher, we can hit."
Kayla Scroggins started the inning with a triple and scored with one out to avoid the run rule. Maddy Day also scored with one out, then Skyview pushed 10 runs across after two were out to take a 16-14 lead.
Victoria Oberts, Mykaela Rybak and Sam Reynolds all had ringing two-RBI singles after two were out.
King was chased during the inning. She only gave up six hits and struck out eight, but was hurt by 11 walks.
"They hit the ball well today," Kenai coach Mark King. "One thing with my team — my pitchers couldn't find the plate today. That helped them out a lot."
Kenai cut the gap to 16-15 in the top of the sixth, but the Panthers upped the lead to 18-15 in the bottom of the inning.
In the top of the seventh inning, Hope Steffensen came to the plate with two outs in an 18-17 game with runners on second and third.
Steffensen was 5 for 5 at the time, but Skyview pitcher Sam Reynolds coaxed her to fly out to third baseman Liz Schoessler for the final out.
Reynolds pitched all seven innings and gave up 13 hits and 10 earned runs while striking out seven. She walked six.
"On offense, we didn't hit the ball," coach King said. "This is not the Kenai team I've seen all year."
Schoessler said Reynolds, a sophomore, is constantly improving as a pitcher.
He said one of her positive attributes is never getting rattled. Even in a game earlier this year, when Soldotna put up a bunch of runs in an inning, Schoessler asked Reynolds if she wanted to come out, and she smiled and said she could finish.
"She's been rock-solid all year," he said.
The coach said Reynolds is learning how to play with hitters, and is getting more comfortable throwing a changeup.
Due to the return of several players to the lineup, Schoessler was able to put together a lineup without having four girls with less than two years experience on the field for the first time all year. It also was the first time this year that everyone on the field had played last year.
That experience showed as Skyview kept Kenai from the killer big inning. The Kardinals scored in every inning, but scored five runs in the fifth and no more than three runs every other inning.
With just one senior and one junior, the future is looking up for Skyview softball.
"They came out strong, focused and hit the ball well," King said. "Give credit to their pitcher. She didn't get rattled."
King said he is happy with the progress of the program in its sixth year. The Kards lose six seniors, but return key players like Steffensen, Havan Shaginoff and Carly Norvelle, who missed Wednesday's game.
Shaginoff was 3 for 5 with three runs and two RBIs, while Morgan Wensley had three runs, Haley Coffman had two runs, Taylor Galley had two hits and four RBIs, and Logane Hall had two runs.
Rybak was 2 for 4 with three runs and three RBIs for Skyview. Kristin May had two runs, Cat Schoessler had a triple and a run, Kayla Scroggins had a triple and three runs, Maddy Day had two runs, Liz Schoessler was 2 for 3 with three runs, and Jessica Lester had two runs.