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Soldotna walks over Kenai: Kardinals pitchers have trouble finding strike zone in NLC loss

Posted: Friday, May 06, 2011

Had the Soldotna softball team left its bats in the parking lot, it wouldn't have mattered.

The Stars still would have won.

SoHi used 14 walks and two hit-batters as they sent 21 hitters to the plate against four pitchers, scoring a 15 runs in the second inning of a 17-0 Northern Lights Conference victory over Kenai Central at Guy Hayes Field in Soldotna on Thursday.

The Stars (2-1) finished with two hits as the game was called after three innings due to the 15-run mercy rule.

"We tell them, 'Stay in your hitting zone,'" SoHi coach Dave Cleveland said of the message when the opposing pitchers can't throw strikes. "We have a zone we hit in and we want them to stay in the zone because we are going to play teams that don't pitch like that and they need to be ready to hit the ball in the zone."

The game unraveled on the Kardinals in the bottom of the second.

With SoHi leading 2-0, starting pitcher Briana King opened the inning by allowing four walks and a double before she was relieved without registering an out.

In came Sam Little, who threw 24 balls on 30 pitches and issued five free passes and hit a batter.

Her replacement, Jodi Cook, walked four without throwing a strike. Havan Shaginoff walked one, hit another and yielded a two-run single to left field before ending the inning.

"In practice they can't miss, but then they get a batter in the box," Kenai Central coach Mark King said. "That was really it. We just couldn't find the plate today."

Nikki Hegge pitched two shutout innings for SoHi, and Briana VinZant entered in the third. The Kards got runners on base in the top of the inning, but the Stars escaped the jam.

Cleveland wished his squad had finished stronger.

"You could tell they were a little flat right there at the beginning of that last inning," he said. "Don't ever underestimate anybody."

Jordan Sass notched both hits for the Stars, finishing 2-for-2 with four RBIs.

Rarely, however, did SoHi have pitches at which to justifiably swing. Some of the tosses went behind the batter's box. Others rolled across home plate. Many clattered against the backstop after flying over the catcher's head.

"I don't like seeing things like that," VinZant said. "They have so much potential."

Kenai Central is in its second season of existence, while SoHi is in its sixth and figures to contend for a berth to the small-schools state tournament.

It takes time to build a program, so it's not surprising games like this happen. And it wasn't all bad for Kenai Central.

King pitched a solid first inning, and each of the three relievers gained valuable experience. Little hadn't seen much time on the mound before this season. King tired out faster than usual. The Kards also put the ball in play on the offensive side.

None of that was lost on the coaches.

"They are doing great," Cleveland said. "It's a process. We have been out here for six years and are still learning things."

SoHi hosts Kodiak in a doubleheader at 4 p.m. today at Guy Hayes Field. Kenai Central (1-2) visits Houston at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.



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