The Kenai Central baseball team came up just short of earning a repeat berth to the state tournament, falling to Kodiak 10-7 in the second-place game of the Northern Lights Conference tournament at Wasilla.
Despite coming up short, coach John Kennedy was thrilled with the effort his team put forward. Kenai lost to eventual champ Colony 10-6 in 11 innings in a Thursday semifinal, meaning the Kards would have to win three more games to make state despite losing valuable pitching in the extra-inning effort against the Knights.
Kenai topped Wasilla to stay alive Friday, then defeated Homer 19-9 to make the second-place game Saturday before falling to the Knights.
“I saw some things out of the team I wouldn’t have seen four days ago,” Kennedy said. “I’m proud of what the kids did today.”
Against Kodiak, Kennedy searched for pitching. Luke Short started and did not get an out in giving up four runs, while Jerry Sisson gave up five runs in the second inning.
Kennedy turned to Hector Rivera for his first extended mound time of the year, and he gave up just one run in six innings.
“The kid did a great job,” Kennedy said. “The only run he gave up was in the seventh, and that was due to an error.”
The Kards were down 9-1 after two innings and battled their way back into the game.
“We had our chances a couple of times,” Kennedy said. “We just didn’t get as many hits as we wanted.”
Dallas Pierren was 3 for 4 with three runs and an RBI, while Josh Liedes was 1 for 2 with an RBI and run, and Short had the other hit.
The Kards also battled from behind to beat the Mariners earlier in the day. Tyler Frates got the start and yielded eight runs, but Pierren and Tay Harling held the Mariners to one run the rest of the game.
Kennedy said he got into an argument with the ump early in the game, and he thinks it distracted his team.
“Once the kids settled down, they got 14 runs in the fourth inning,” Kennedy said. “I think Homer ran out of pitching.”
Harling was 2 for 3, Pierren was 3 for 4 with three runs and three RBIs, Jake Conver got on base all five times and scored three runs and had an RBI, Luke Short was 2 for 4 with two runs and three RBIs, and Miles Jones had a hit and three RBIs.
The Kards finished 9-5 on the year.
“We had 14 ballgames and six outdoor practices,” Kennedy said. “It was amazing for this group of boys to do what they did.”
Homer also saw its season end after a solid run in the tournament. The Mariners lost Thursday night’s semifinal to Kodiak 9-2 before coming back to defeat Palmer 12-9 on Friday morning to earn a spot in that game against Kenai.
Kenai 11, Wasilla 10
The Kardinals edged the Warriors on Friday at Wasilla to stay alive for a second-place berth.
Kenai Central coach John Kennedy knew his team was short on pitching after going extra innings with Colony on Thursday, so he knew the Kards would have to score a lot of runs to win.
They came through, starting with a grand slam by Short.
Short would finish 2 for 4 with two runs and six RBIs. Also for the Kards, Rivera was 2 for 5, Harling was 2 for 4 with three runs, Pierren was 3 for 4 with two runs, Jones was 2 for 4 and Justin Wisnewski was 2 for 4.
“We did what we had to do to win,” Kennedy said.
Ethan Oliver started on the mound and went the first 3 2-3 innings, walking 11 en route to giving up nine runs. Jones pitched the last 3 1-3, giving up just a run, to pick up the win.
The Kardinals moved on to play Homer in the second-place bracket.
Palmer 21, Soldotna 15
The Moose eliminated the Stars (2-9 overall) on Friday morning in a 10 a.m. game at Houston.
Soldotna coach George Stein said it was an offensive battle. He said his team, led by a 4-for-5 effort from Klayton Justice, was up 7-1 at one point, but could not hold the lead.
“We had a few errors in one inning that cost us,” Stein said. “We hit the ball well again, but we couldn’t stop them from hitting.”
The Stars lose seniors Shayne Miller, Gavin Larson and Tyler Fritz, but Stein, who started at least three freshmen in every game, said the future is bright.
“We hit the ball well as a team, that’s the good thing coming out of the weekend,” Stein said. “We’ve still got to find some pitching.”
Also Friday, Wasilla topped Houston 6-0.
South Division MVP — Brandon Mahle.
North Division MVP — Jonathon Boyer.
Coach of the Year — Jordan Chadwell, Colony.
Good sport team — Zane Mileur, Colony; Derek Johnson, Homer; Devan Elson, Houston; Josh Liedes, Kenai; Sam Kirchenslauger, Kodiak; Luke Heum, Palmer; Shayne Miller, Soldotna; Jake Grissom, Wasilla.
First team all-conference — Jonathon Boyer, Colony; Jacob Butcher, Colony; Ben Ross, Colony; Tommy Bowe, Homer; Jayden Sears, Houston; Dallas Pierren, Kenai; Hector Rivera, Kenai; Austin Frick, Kodiak; Brandon Mahle, Kodiak; Adam Christiansen, Palmer; Luke Heun, Palmer; Tyler Fritz, Soldotna.
Second team all-conference — Dalton McHugill, Colony; James M. McJimsey, Colony; Matt Palmer, Colony; Logan Sanders, Colony; Willie Deaver, Homer; Zach Haning, Homer; Brian Rowe, Homer; Devan Elson, Houston; Mitch Ruta, Houston; Miles Jones, Kenai; Jake Arnold, Kodiak; Cameron Christiansen, Palmer; Shayne Miller, Soldotna; Mitchell Chauvin, Wasilla; Tyler Hansen, Wasilla.