The Kenai Central baseball squad’s 6-1 win over Homer on Monday at the Kenai Little League fields didn’t rate high on style points, but style points are not what count this time of year.
With the start of the Northern Lights Conference tournament looming Thursday in Soldotna, Dallas Pierren and Miles Jones gave the Kards a boost by pitching the Kenai past the Mariners.
Kenai finishes 3-6 in the NLC and overall, while Homer ends up 4-5 and 4-7 overall. Brackets for the tournament will be released today.
“I wouldn’t say we are on a roll,” said Pierren, a recent graduate. “It was a lucky win, but we’ll take it.
“All we need is three lucky wins at regions and we make state.”
Pierren called the win lucky because Kenai had trouble fielding pop-ups early, and because the Kards got their runs by being opportunistic, and not tearing the cover off the ball.
Pierren pitched the first five innings for the win, giving up five hits and one earned run while walking two and striking out five. Jones pitched the final two innings, giving up no runs and no hits while striking out two.
“Miles and Dallas, there is no question they are our big guns pitchingwise,” Kenai coach John Kennedy said.
With the tournament coming up, Kennedy said it was key that both Pierren and Jones were efficient getting through the lineup, leaving them fresh.
In the first inning, Kenai committed an error and let two foul pop-ups hit the ground, but Pierren escaped unscathed. In the third inning, another foul pop-up fell, but again Homer did not score. And Pierren kept the Mariners off the board in the fourth inning when a fly ball from Brandon Beachy dropped amongst three players in right center for a double.
“I just pretend like they didn’t happen,” said Pierren, when asked how he works through the miscues.
Kennedy said there are times Pierren tries to do too much after fielding errors, but that the whole team did a good job playing through them Monday.
“When mistakes happen, it’s easy to start pointing fingers,” he said. “Nobody started pointing fingers today.”
Homer struck first in the game in the second inning, when Beachy singled and scored on a single by Paul Trowbridge.
Kenai came right back in the bottom of the second. Sam Combs, a late insertion into the lineup after Connor Jones hurt his finger during pregame infield, singled with one out. Nate O’Lena and Justin Burdick followed with singles, with Combs scoring on Burdick’s single and O’Lena scoring on a wild pitch. Isaac Mese would single in Burdick.
In the third inning, Pierren scored on a sacrifice fly by Miles Jones for a 4-1 game. In the fourth, Mese singled in O’Lena, and Ellery Steffensen singled in Mese.
Beachy pitched the first four innings, giving up seven hits and five earned runs. The downfall was his two hit batters and six pitches that kicked past the catcher to the backstop.
“We gave up a lot of free bases today,” Homer coach Mark Putney said. “We also didn’t make plays on defense.”
On offense, Putney said the Mariners did not do a good job of manufacturing runs. Putney said being aggressive normally works for Homer, but not Monday.
“He made pitches when he had to,” Putney said of Pierren. “He had a couple of big strikeouts.”
Pierren credited shortstop Ellery Steffensen with a strong game in the field. Steffensen had six assists.
“He was like a vacuum cleaner out there,” Kennedy said. “He was all over the place.”
Kennedy also said it was nice to get balanced hitting. Mese was 2 for 3 with two RBIs and a run from the No. 9 spot, while Burdick was 2 for 3 with a run and RBI at No. 7, and O’Lena scored two runs at No. 6.
Beachy had two hits for Homer, while Putney said he liked the way Sheldon Hutt came in and shut Kenai down in the last two innings. Hutt didn’t allow a hit or a run and walked one while fanning two.