The Homer girls softball team battled its way into the small-schools state championship match, but ultimately fell short, losing to Sitka 14-12 on Saturday at Cartee Fields in Anchorage.
In a rematch of last year’s state championship bout, Homer and Sitka slugged it out over seven innings, as Sitka held an early 7-2 lead after only two innings.
“Oh my, they had revenge on their mind,” Sitka coach Bob Potrzuski said. “There’s some great leadership on Homer, and they would just not go away, and I was proud to be playing them. I would coach them.”
The Mariners fought back, scoring three runs in the third inning, and four in the fourth, which gave them a brief 9-8 lead.
Homer coach Bill Bell tried to catch Sitka off guard, putting in pitcher Katie McNary in the first inning instead of Hannah Larue.
“We changed it up a little, Hannah pitched the first game all the way through, so we thought we’d throw something a little different at them for a few innings,” Homer coach Bill Bell said. “But, they’re a good hitting team.”
Miranda Beach hit a double at the top of the third inning after a Monica Davis single, and Katie Kirsis hit a double to bring home both teammates and score two RBIs for herself.
Lauren Cashman and Larue each had a single in the top of the fourth inning, and each scored when Beach hit another double.
Homer gave up five runs at the bottom of the fourth, as Bethany Lowrance, Jaycie Saunders and Jettafay Workman all hit doubles to move Sitka around the bases and score.
“We just needed to be a little crisper, that’s what got us in the first game, we just weren’t crisp enough,” coach Bell said. “They gave up a few runs they shouldn’t have, mostly due to mental errors.”
Larue smacked a homer over the fence with Davis also on base to bring the Mariners closer to the lead in the sixth inning, putting the score at 13-12, but that was as close as they got.
The championship is Sitka’s third consecutive small-schools state title.
“Nobody’s hit against us like Homer has and they have great contact hitters, they have good play, Homer is just fantastic,” Potrzuski said. “They had some girls on base out there, and one of them hit a bomb, so we were holding our breath every inning.
“They are relentless. They just keep coming at you, and keep slinging, and they make you make plays all the time.”
Larue said the loss this year is more satisfying than last year’s shutout because the Mariners gave Sitka a run for its money this time around.
“Oh yes, it’s definitely satisfying because last year we lost to them 8-0, and this year we didn’t just give them an easy game, it was 14-12,” Larue said. “So everyone stepped up and I’m proud of us.
“We went into the game trying to just have fun, because we’ve played all day and everyone was tired, so we thought let’s just do our best, and it all happened to fall into place.”
Larue ended up going 3 for 5 with a single, one double and the homer, while teammate Brooke DeVaney was 2 for 4, including a triple.
Katie Kirsis hit all four times she was at bat, three of which were doubles, and also batted in three runs.
Kendall Phippen and Jaycie Saunders led Sitka with three hits out of four at-bats, and both also recorded a double.
Homer lost to Sitka 12-8 earlier in the day, which relegated them to the second of two brackets.
Homer was led by Davis in that loss, as she hit all three times at bat. Larue also had a good outing, going 2 for 3 with two RBIs, a triple and a home run.
The Mariners fought back in the second game of the day with a 7-5 win over Ketchikan to face up against Sitka one more time, in the championship game.
Cashman led Homer in the win over Ketchikan, going 3 for 4 and hitting three singles and an RBI. Kirsis also went 3 for 4 with a triple and two singles.
“I’m really happy with the effort, and just the incredible heart they showed throughout, it’s enough to carry me through the winter,” Bell said. “There was a time there when we could’ve easily gotten down on ourselves, but they pushed through, and Sitka’s coach called us relentless, so that’s good.”