The Kenai Central softball team hasn’t tallied a victory over Soldotna in three years, so forgive the Kardinals for excessive celebration Thursday evening.
A walk-off hit by Darcy Blume sent Kenai to a 10-9 win over Soldotna — its first since 2012 — at Steve Shearer Memorial Ball Park in Kenai.
“I think I bent the bench jumping up and down,” said an excited Cierra King. “Everyone was just jumping up and down while we were batting.”
King pitched a crucial scoreless fourth inning that helped Kenai maintain an 8-5 lead, and went all five innings for Kenai on the mound, striking out six while walking nine in the blustery conditions.
“Towards the end, I was getting pretty tired, but I just had to push through,” King said. “There was just a lot of adrenaline.”
Kenai coach Mark King — Cierra’s father — said before the fifth inning, with his team still leading, he walked out to ask his daughter about whether she felt good enough to finish the game.
“She said, ‘Let me finish,’” coach King said. “She wanted to keep going.”
King faced four batters in the fourth inning, striking out two while allowing a double from Emily Lohrke. Coach King said the attitude of the team felt different, which helped the Kards finish strong and grab the win.
“You could tell that their demeanor was a lot stronger,” coach King said. “If they made a mistake, they weren’t dejected. They went out and played better.”
Delaney Schneider also went the distance for Soldotna, pitching four strikeouts but walking seven batters.
“I thought Delaney pitched really well, she gave them trouble,” said Soldotna coach Kelli Knoebel. “We just didn’t get things to go our way at the end there. That’s softball.”
Ember Lohrke hit 2 for 3 including a double to lead the Stars offense. For Kenai, Blume ended up hitting 2 for 3 with four RBI and two runs. Emily Koziczkowski and Darian Saltenberger added hits as well.
Kenai took its first lead of the game in the first inning with a pair of pitches gone astray from Schneider. The miscues allowed Blume and King to score, putting Kenai up 3-1 after the inning.
The Stars came back and tied things up in the second, as a passed ball brought Macylea Elsey home. Koziczkowski put the Kards up again in the bottom of the inning with a run off a single by Ashley Maxson.
In the bottom of the third, Koziczkowski sent a single out that scored Saltenberger, putting Kenai up 8-5. Soldotna catcher Meghan Ussing had a spectacular diving catch that recorded an out for SoHi.
After erasing a three-run Kenai lead in the top of the fifth inning, Soldotna led 9-8. King walked Jazi Larrow, Elsey and Olivia Farrell in succession, and a wild pitch brought Larrow in to score. The tying run came on a sacrifice fly by Payton Thomas that scored Farrell, who beat Koziczkowski’s catch at home plate, and the go-ahead run came on a wild pitch that brought Schneider across home plate.
The Kenai comeback started with four straight hits — three singles and a sacrifice fly — that left the bases loaded with one out. Coach King said he told Koziczkowski on third base that if Blume hits, do not leave the bag.
“I had all the confidence Darcy was going to drill one,” King said. “Her bat was hot today.”
Sure enough, Blume sent the ball to right field and the Kards into celebration mode.
Kenai will face Kodiak next Tuesday, while Soldotna plays Chugiak today at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.