The Soldotna baseball team opened its season by dropping two of three to visiting Kodiak in games played on Friday and Saturday.
The big game was Saturday morning's Southcentral Conference opener. The Friday night and late Saturday games were nonconference. The Bears are now 5-1 and 2-0 in the conference.
The Stars lost the conference game 8-2. Josiah Covey pitched 4 2-3 innings for Soldotna in the game, giving up five earned runs.
The pivotal point in the game came in the fifth inning with the game tied at 1. With two outs, the Soldotna coaching staff issued an intentional walk to load the bases. Kodiak's next batter ripped a shot to shortstop that went for a hit. After that, the floodgates opened, with Kodiak getting five runs in the inning to put away the game.
"That game was a coach's loss," said Soldotna coach Rob Quelland. "We walked the bases loaded, and if it worked, we would have gotten out of the inning 1-1. But it was a hard-hit ball, and that opened the floodgates."
Tyler Marcuson finished up on the mound in the game, and also went 1-for-3 with a double and an RBI. DJ Stilchen also was 1-for-2 with a stolen base.
In Saturday's afternoon game, the Stars notched a 9-7 victory. Marcuson pitched four strong innings, striking out six and not allowing any runs. Stilchen and Mitchell Thompson finished up, with Stilchen yielding four runs and Thompson giving up three.
On offense, Gavin Larson was 3-for-4 with three RBIs, Covey was 3-for-3 with three runs, Shayne Miller was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run and Jake Darrow was 1-for-1 with two RBIs.
"It was a great weekend," Quelland said. "I wish we could have done it two weeks ago. It helped us get into playing shape."
In Friday's game, the Bears received a three-run homer run from Patrick Pickett and a two-run homer from Shane Wandersee in picking up the 10-2 victory.
The Stars got on the board first in the bottom of the first inning when Darrow scored on a grounder from Thompson.
Soldotna freshman starter Mitchel Daugherty held the Bears scoreless for two innings before hitting a rough patch in the third inning. With one away, Daugherty hit a batter and walked another batter.
Kodiak coach Rick Langfitt said he normally would have had No. 2 hitter Alec Eastman hit away with runners on first and second with one out, but Langfitt wanted to practice sacrifice bunting. Eastman sacrificed runners to second and third.
Pickett made the sacrifice move pay off by ripping a Daugherty offering over the center-field wall for a 3-1 lead.
The Stars came back to cut the lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the third. Steven Steger was hit by a pitch, stole second and moved to third on a ground-out by Darrow. Covey then ripped a single through the left side of the infield to score Steger.
That would be all Kodiak starter Matt Chavarria would allow through six innings of work. Chavarria gave up six hits while striking out seven with the aid of a looping curveball.
"He's our third or fourth starter and he did a really good job," Langfitt said. "He's a junior and that's as long as he's gone in his career."
Quelland said the Stars were seeing their first pitching from an opposing team all year.
"Our hitting didn't come around," he said. "It's hard to adjust when you've only been facing your own guys for the last three months."
DJ Stilchen came on in relief of Daugherty in the fourth inning and pitched one scoreless inning before the Bears got to work on him in the fifth. Eddie Arellano started the inning with a walk and Eastman sacrificed him to second. Pickett again came through by smashing a single to left to score Arellano. Wandersee made it 6-2 when he conked a home run to left.
In addition to seeing opposing pitching, Quelland said the game was valuable because his team got to test its defense. With one error, the Stars passed that test.
Quelland also said his freshmen played well. Daugherty turned in three good innings on the mound, Larson had a pinch-hit single and Miller played well in the outfield after coming in for the top of the fourth.
The Bears got their final four runs in the seventh against Stan Westerman. Kodiak had three hits in the inning, and Westerman walked two.
Wandersee pitched a scoreless seventh inning for the Bears.
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