The Kenai Central baseball team lost 7-4 in the fourth-place game in the ASAA state tournament to Lathrop on Saturday at Mulcahy Park in Anchorage.
After dropping Thursday’s first-round game to Service 6-3, Kenai beat Monroe Catholic 4-2 on Friday to advance to the fourth-place matchup against the team from Fairbanks.
However, Lathrop scored a first-inning run from Braden Hall to take the lead, and while the Kards managed to take a 3-2 lead in the second inning, they weren’t prepared for the charge the Malamutes put up in the fourth inning.
“The frustrating thing is that we had three outs and missed the ball and gave them life, and it always seems like the good teams capitalize on things like that,” Kenai coach John Kennedy said. “We had trouble stopping them and that’s just the way it is.”
Kenai’s Zack Mese hit a single out to left field at the bottom of the second inning, and after Robert Cockrell walked, Miles Jones hit a single that allowed Mese to score Kenai’s first run. Cockrell and Jones each scored as well in the inning to give Kenai the lead.
After a three-and-out third inning for both teams, Lathrop found some magic in the fourth, scoring five runs.
Colton Wolter, Rodney Perdue and Hall were each able to hit a double for Lathrop, and that opened the door for all three to score in addition to Matthew Perry’s and Mekiah Stansel’s runs.
“We just had to catch a fly ball,” Kennedy said. “We had three opportunities in that inning to catch fly balls, and we just didn’t do it. It’s not anybody’s fault, but they were fortunate to get the break.”
Still reeling from the fourth inning, Kenai’s AJ Hull hit a single in the fifth, and from there, he managed to steal second and third bases, and make it home off a sacrifice fly from Cockrell.
“The bottom line is to stay patient at the plate, and keep working at getting guys on base, but we could never get the hit,” Kennedy said. “A couple guys hit shots right at them.”
Mese ended up with the player of the game for Kenai, and said Kenai started the game slow.
“They really got us right off the bat, and coach always said there’s seven innings for a reason, so after two we thought we could come back and get them, but it just didn’t happen,” Mese said. “We played a good game, but just not good enough, I guess.
“I’m happy with it, and I think we’re all pretty happy and proud we’ve made it this far.”
Mese and Ethan Oliver hit 2 for 4 for Kenai, while Miles Jones managed to go 1 for 3.
“It’s a new level of baseball, it really is, playing teams like Service, and these big schools,” Mese said. “It’s a different kind of baseball, and I had a blast doing it.”
With five starting seniors leaving next year, Kennedy said the biggest advantage the returning players could get was the trip to state.
“The biggest thing for next year, is hopefully with this experience, we’ll have some guys who can rebound and fill those spots and come do it again next year,” Kennedy said.