Just days before she is due to graduate, Serena Prior showed why Soldotna will be missing her next year.
Behind a sterling pitching performance and powerful batting Tuesday from Prior, the Stars routed Kenai Central 18-2 in four innings at the Kenai softball fields to sweep the Northern Lights Conference season series and improve to 4-4 on the year (3-2 conference). Kenai continued its winless season by dropping to 0-7 overall (0-5 conference).
“I just go out and have fun,” Prior said. “Sometimes I get down but my teammates back me up and make me feel better.”
Prior hit 3 for 3 (two triples) with three RBIs and two runs. On the mound, Prior gave up one hit while delivering seven strikeouts.
To top it all off, she will be walking the graduating stage with her fellow seniors Monday. It will be an exciting time, but the senior managed to contain her excitement Tuesday on the mound.
“I felt like I did pretty well with my pitches today, just kept them down the middle like we needed,” she said.
Soldotna coach Kelli Knoebel had high praise of Prior and all her players, saying that they got hits when they needed them most.
Amber McDonald hit 2 for 3 with three RBIs, Delaney Schneider hit 2 for 2 with two RBIs, Jessica Hanna hit 3 for 4 with three RBIs, and Ila Cobb hit 3 for 3 with two RBIs.
“(Prior) dominated the game,” Knoebel said. “That really helps on offense. Even when they scored, we came back and were aggressive on the plate. It really sets the tone of the game.”
Knoebel said she told her players to come out aggressive, and they must have listened. The Stars took an 8-0 lead in the first inning with four singles, a double and an inside-the-park home run from McDonald that scored three. Hanna, Cobb and Kenley Kingrey all found contact in their first at-bat.
In the second inning, Prior scored on a passed ball, then Hanna hit a single that brought Kayla Bauter home for a 10-0 lead.
At the top of the fourth, the Stars scored seven runs, as runners streamed in off of two triples from Prior and Schneider, two doubles from McDonald and Cobb, and a single from Allison Nelson.
“I was most proud of my second to last triple because I knew it was going big,” Prior said. “That one, I went full on.”
Havan Shaginoff received the loss pitching for Kenai, giving up 16 hits but striking out four batters.
Kenai coach Mark King was at a loss to explain the lack of hitting from his team. King said Kenai was averaging over .400 batting the first week of the season, but has slumped since then.
“The first week we hit the ball really well,” King said. “Now it’s maybe .200.
“Some of it’s mechanics, they’re just not really watching the ball.”
Shaginoff hit a double in the bottom of the third that brought NyQolle VanDegrift and Patricia Catacutan in to score, but that was practically all the offense that the Kards could muster.
“We just need to get our confidence back up,” King said. “Once we get back to what we were hitting in the first week, we’ll be fine.”
Homer 9, Skyview 4
The Mariners got even with a win over the Panthers on Tuesday evening in Homer.
After losing to Skyview 6-4 two weeks ago in a Northern Lights Conference matchup, Homer took advantage of seven errors by Skyview and turned in some insurance runs late to hold off Skyview and improve to 3-1 in the conference (3-13 overall).
McKi Needham took the win on the mound, getting eight strikeouts and giving up seven hits. Skyview’s Sam Reynolds also gave up seven hits and struck out three. Of the nine runs that Homer scored, only one was earned.
Needham and Maggie LaRue both were 2 for 4, and LaRue had two RBI.
Reynolds, Lynne Hesse and Mikaela Rybak each went 2 for 4 at bat for Skyview, and Rybak batted in three runs.
Skyview took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Hesse hit a fly ball single that brought Reynolds home.
However, Homer would tie it up in the bottom of the first when Needham scored on a wild pitch. Larsen Fellows scored the go-ahead run when Reynolds walked Kyla Pitzman with the bases loaded.
Homer scored a run in the second inning, three in the third and three in the sixth, while Skyview added a run in the third and two in the fifth.