The Soldotna baseball team finished 1-3 in home games played Friday and Saturday at the Soldotna Little League fields.
On Friday, the Stars notched an important Southcentral Conference victory against Wasilla before dropping a nonconference game, 12-0, to Houston in five innings. On Saturday, the Stars dropped a conference matchup 6-4 to Colony before losing a nonconference game 10-7 to the Knights.
Soldotna is now 1-2 in the conference and 2-5 overall. Soldotna coach Robb Quelland said the team will likely have to win its remaining two conference games to have a shot at qualifying for state.
In Friday's game against Wasilla, the Stars overcame a leadoff home run and a 6-1 deficit to notch a 20-8 victory against the Warriors.
"That's how good we should be," Quelland said. "I'm excited that we showed how well we can play when we hit and pitch the way we are capable."
There was a wind Quelland estimated at 25 mph howling out of the ballpark. Five home runs were hit during the game.
"I know that during our home games last year only two or three went out all year," Quelland said. "Not to take anything away from the home runs, but the wind definitely helped."
Wasilla leadoff hitter Chris Bydlon wasted no time taking advantage of the wind. He ripped the first offering from SoHi starter Josiah Covey over the left-field fence. Wasilla coach Myrl Thompson said the wind definitely had something to do with the home run, because it was probably the first time Bydlon left the yard in his life.
"I had faith in the pitching," said SoHi junior Mitchell Thompson, who finished 2-for-4 with three runs and six RBI thanks to a grand slam. "That's not a good start but at the same time it's only a run."
SoHi came right back in the bottom of the inning when Thompson reached on an error and Covey went yard. Quelland said all three Stars to homer had their first varsity home runs.
After Wasilla tied the game in the second on an unearned run, David Newman scored three with a bases-loaded single in the third. Newman would score on a single by Dusty Wisdom to give the Warriors a 6-2 lead.
Then Soldotna effectively put the game away by scoring 13 runs in the third inning. The big blow in the inning was a two-run homer by Tyler Marcuson. Soldotna had seven hits in the inning, while Wasilla made four errors. The Stars chased Wasilla starter Jaron Christensen-Vavalis in the inning. He gave up 11 runs -- five earned -- in 2 1-3 innings.
"We had a bunch of kids who graduated last night," Coach Thompson said after falling to 5-4 overall and 0-1 in the league. "I don't think they got enough sleep."
In the fourth, Soldotna's bats continued to ring against Wasilla reliever Eric Marshall. Thompson hit his grand slam on a 3-1 count with his team ahead 16-6. Thompson said he knew Marshall would want to throw a strike to avoid walking in a run.
"I knew I was going to swing before he pitched it," he said. "I was just trying to put it in the gap in left center like I did earlier, but I got under it a little bit."
Coach Thompson said Marshall came into the game with a .44 ERA, but the hurler gave up nine runs -- eight earned -- in 1 2-3 innings.
Considering the windy conditions, SoHi's pitching and defense held up. Covey gave up six runs -- five earned -- in four innings, while Marcuson gave up two earned runs in the last inning.
Marcuson's runs came on a two-run homer by Newman.
SoHi had just two errors in the game. Wasilla had six.
"Defense today was important," Quelland said. "The way we were hitting the ball, when they made a few errors, we took advantage."
For the Warriors, Bydlon was 2-for-3 with two runs, Christensen-Vavalis was 2-for-2 with two runs and Newman was 2-for-3 with two runs and five RBIs.
For the Stars, Jake Darrow was 2-for-3 with two runs and three RBIs, Covey was 3-for-4 with three runs and two RBIs, and Stan Westerman was 2-for-3 with three runs and two RBIs.
Houston 12, Soldotna 0
The Hawks took a big lead early and cruised to victory.
DJ Stilchen pitched four innings and struck out nine, but gave up 10 runs, five of which were earned.
"It was a tuneup game," Quelland said. "We played all of our young kids. It's a good chance to get them some experience."
Colony 6, Soldotna 4
The Stars put the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the seventh, but could not overcome a tough third inning against the Knights.
Colony got all of its six runs in the third, when the Stars committed four errors. That led to four unearned runs. Covey pitched the first three innings and was charged with all the runs.
"He pitched well," Quelland said of Covey. "The defense just didn't play well behind him."
Marcuson finished the game with shutout ball and allowed the Stars to mount a comeback.
"Colony is the dominant team and we played them well," Quelland said. "(Coach Jamie) Mayo complimented the improvement of our program after the game."
Thompson hit another home run in the game and was 2-for-3, while Westerman had a triple to start a rally in the fifth. Covey was 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
Colony 10, Soldotna 7
The Knights won the nonconference contest, which again gave the Stars a chance to get a look at some younger players.
"Colony brings 30 kids to the field," Quelland said. "They have two separate teams. Some of my kids had to play all 14 innings."
Freshman Mitchel Daugherty pitched the first three innings and gave up six runs. Westerman pitched two innings of shutout ball, while Stilchen gave up four runs in two innings.
Steven Steger was 2-for-3 with a home run, while Westerman was 2-for-3 with a double.
"We enjoyed the support of the community and the administration," Quelland said. "We probably had 85 or 100 people there for the morning game against Colony."
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