The Kenai Central and Soldotna softball teams took to the diamond for the first time this year at Guy and Judy Hayes Field in Soldotna on Thursday evening, and no heaters were needed in the dugouts.
The Stars came away with a 10-3 win over the Kardinals as the two squads opened their seasons under warm, sunny skies.
For SoHi, senior Serena Prior proved to be the difference, pitching all five innings with six strikeouts and one hit.
“She pitched inside and outside and had them looking,” said Soldotna coach Kelli Knoebel. “She took over the game.”
Prior also hit 2 for 4 with one RBI.
Also for SoHi, Ila Cobb hit 2 for 4 including a double, Amber McDonald hit 2 for 4 and Kenley Kingrey had two RBIs on 1 for 2 hitting.
“Serena, our catcher Delaney (Schneider) and I have our system going already,” Knoebel said. “We have our signals and we know what’s coming for every pitch and every at-bat.”
Kenai pitcher Havan Shaginoff started the game on the mound with one strikeout, three earned runs and three walks, but fell ill after two innings and was replaced by Alyson Quartly, who finished the game with five earned runs and three walks.
“Alyson’s a trooper,” said Kenai coach Mark King. “Last year we had four varsity games in two days, and she pitched all of them because my other pitchers were injured.
“Putting her in like this, that’s nothing to her.”
Kenai scored early in the first inning when Darian Saltenberger batted in two runs that put the Kards up. Saltenberger hit 1 for 1 on the day.
But once SoHi began hitting, the diamond became a merry-go-round of baserunners. Once the ball was put into play, fielding errors and missed opportunities by Kenai kept SoHi in the innings.
“Once you have that momentum going, it’s about smart baserunning and knowing the game,” Knoebel said. “It’s trusting your instincts and making plays happen. Things went our way today and we came out ready.”
In the bottom of the first, Soldotna scored its first run when Jessica Hanna scored on a walk with the bases loaded.
The Stars tied the game at 2 in the second inning when McDonald’s single brought Allison Nelson to home plate, and SoHi followed that up with a single from Cobb that scored McDonald to give SoHi the lead.
“They played well, like we practiced, but the issues came in when they were unfocused,” King said. “We had a couple of mistakes that shouldn’t have happened, but that’s something we can work on.”
Shaginoff added Kenai’s only other run at the top of the third when she stole home on a hit from Quartly that resulted in an out.
Soldotna scored three runs in the fourth inning on a Kingrey hit that brought Kayla Bauter in, then a Schneider double that brought Prior and Hanna home.
At the top of the fifth, Prior breezed through Kenai’s batters with a three-and-out performance that lasted less than five minutes.
Cobb and Prior each added singles in the fifth inning that helped ice the game.
Ketchikan 9, Homer 1
Thirteen hits determined Homer’s fate as the Mariners lost to the reigning state runner-ups Thursday in the first game of a doubleheader with Southcentral teams.
The doubleheader loss leaves the Mariners with a unexpected 0-7 season record.
Pam Jantzi took the loss on the mound, pitching 2 1-3 innings with six hits and six earned runs, while McKi Needham went three innings with seven hits and three earned runs.
Ketchikan scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the second, but Homer responded the next inning with a steal of home plate from Maggie LaRue.
But the big inning from the Kings came in the third, when Ketchikan scored five times. Amy Boegler smacked a double that scored Lexi Biggerhoff and Felicia Ruaro, and Martha Bullock added another double that brought in Boegler and Jazmyn Nedzwecky, resulting in a 5-1 lead for the Kings.
Homer coach Bill Bell said he thought Thursday’s opening game was the best his squad had played all year, but one bad inning led to a land rush of errors that kept the Kings in scoring position.
From there, Ketchikan added a run in the fourth inning and two in the sixth to ice the game.
Juneau-Douglas 17, Homer 1
The second game of the day for the Mariners was even more lopsided. The Crimson Bears scored six runs in the bottom of the first inning, two in the second, and ended the game with a mercy ruling after nine runs in the third.
Juneau provided some heavy hitting, as Andrea Gordon hit 4 for 4 with three runs and three RBI, Gracie Meires hit 3 for 3 with three runs and two RBI, and Sophie Hultberg went 2 for 2 with three runs and five RBI.
Homer got four hits, as McKi Needham went 2 for 2. Maggie LaRue and Larsen Fellows each added a hit as well.
McKi Needham started the game pitching for Homer and gave up eight hits and seven earned runs, and Jantzi pitched the final two outs with seven hits and nine earned runs.
Like the earlier game with Ketchikan, Homer took the early 1-0 lead when LaRue scored on an error from second baseman Erica Maiquis.
From there, Juneau scored on a double from Meires that brought in Gordon to tie the game. Meires then broke the tie on a walk to home with the bases loaded with Needham pitching.
Hultberg followed that with a double that scored two more runs, and the rout was on.