The Soldotna girls softball team experienced a long day of ups and downs Friday at the ASAA state tournament in Anchorage, playing three games but ultimately dropping out of the tournament with one win and two losses. All three games were played at Cartee Fields.
The Stars began the day with a barnburner of a win, a 10-9 squeaker against Monroe Catholic from Fairbanks.
The Rams were leading 1-0 after the first inning, but Soldotna put the heat on in the second, recording six runs, as a single from Kalina Smith brought Tanisha Chavez and Lauretta Price across home, and Lagi Wong recorded a double to go along with a hit from Serena Prior.
“Usually, when we see a pitcher, we need about one inning to get used to her, and about that second inning we had gone around the hitting order, and then they were used to her speed and we were getting the hits,” Soldotna coach Dave Cleveland said. “Once we figured out the timing, we got it.”
Monroe tried to come back with hits from Demi and Mia Obermeyer in the third inning, which translated to four runs, but Soldotna answered back with four runs of its own in the bottom of the third, including a smashing home run from Jordan Sedy.
“We needed to play a little tighter on defense, we had some mental errors in that last inning, we had the bases loaded, and we just needed a hit, but that’s OK,” Cleveland said.
Prior went 2 for 3 with two runs and three RBIs to lead the Stars, while Sedy was 1 for 3 with two runs and two RBIs, including the homer.
Nikki Hegge pitched for the Stars and had five strikeouts to go along with seven walks.
Monroe’s top hitters were the Obermeyers, as Demi went 3 for 3 with two singles, and Mia was 2 for 3 with one double.
“It’s a lot of pressure, here at the first game of the tournament,” Cleveland said. “But now that we got it handled, hopefully we can be a little more relaxed.”
Unfortunately, the win was the only highlight of the day for Soldotna.
In the Stars' second game of the day, against Sitka, the best team from the Southeast conference, Soldotna was never able to find a rhythm and lost 12-4.
In what Cleveland called a “flat” performance from Soldotna, the Stars’ best hitter was Prior, with two RBIs and two hits at three at-bats. Wong went 1 for 3 to also help Soldotna.
Sitka produced five early runs, compared to only two from Soldotna, in the first three innings, and never let go to cruise to the win.
Hegge did strike out six of Sitka’s batters, the same number as Sitka pitcher Stefania Potrzuski.
Sitka finished off with three runs in the fifth inning to win, and the Wolves will play Homer on Saturday at 9 a.m. to determine who goes to the championship game, to be played later in the day.
Soldotna finished the day off with a last-chance effort to continue on in the tournament with a game against Ketchikan.
While the Stars led 4-3 early on, they dropped seven straight runs to lose 10-4 to the Kings.
“It’s always hurts when you put the first couple batters up on base without an out,” Cleveland said. “They got a couple good hits right there, and they had a good hit to right field, and that one girl ripped one, and it was suddenly an 8-4 game.”
Wong and Hegge each had a double in the first inning to help the Stars score two runs, which put them even with Ketchikan, and followed that up with two more in the second, scoring runs from Madeline Wilcox and Smith off a double from Sedy.
However, Ketchikan came roaring back in the fourth inning, getting five runs, mostly off a double from Abby Boegler.
“When you get through your lineup, the girls start to see the ball a little better each time, and they started getting momentum and started getting hits,” Ketchikan coach Scott Smith said. “We kind of take the mind-set that we play our game and make adjustments if necessary.”
When all was said and done, Soldotna was left empty-handed.
“I am more than satisfied with the effort,” Cleveland said. “Of course we hate to lose and go out on the first day of competition, but they played great.”
Cleveland said three games in a single day certainly contributed to the tiredness of the players, but is optimistic of the near future and of what Soldotna learned.
“We have a good year coming up, and it’s just another level up from what we play all year, and we have some good young players that can learn from this,” he said.
Wilcox was Soldotna’s top hitter in game three, getting hits all three times at bat, while Sedy went 2 for 3 with an RBI, Prior went 1 for 3 with a double and an RBI, Wong went 1 for 3 with a double and an RBI and Hegge went 1 for 3 with a double and an RBI.