PALMER -- It's hard enough to get three outs against the Colony Knights. Tyler Marcuson had to get four to close the door on Colony and send his team to the state tournament for the second time in school history.
But Marcuson got his fourth out.
Marcuson stranded a base runner in the top of the seventh to secure Soldotna's 4-3 win over the Knights during the Southcentral Conference semifinals Friday night at Hermon Brothers Field in Palmer.
The Stars lost Saturday's championship game 9-7 to Kodiak when they couldn't hold a 4-2 lead going into the sixth inning. The Stars open play in the state tournament Thursday at Hermon Brothers Field against West Valley.
Friday, a day after putting in significant work on the mound during a quarterfinal win over Houston, Marcuson made the semifinal start and threw a complete-game three-hitter. He walked four batters, but struck out six and didn't allow a hit for extra bases.
The game marked the first start of the season for Marcuson and just his second appearance. With that and the amount of work the righty had put in during the last two days, Soldotna coach Roger Phillips had no idea how long he'd last.
"Who knew what his strength was?" Phillips said. "He hadn't been tested all season. We had no idea about his duration. It was inning-by-inning, pitch-by-pitch."
But Marcuson managed to go the distance, throwing 109 pitches over the seven innings.
"He proved himself last year, plus he's a Legion player," Phillips said. "He's proven himself on the mound."
Marcuson started to show the wear in the seventh. He forced Colony's first two hitters to ground out. At one point, Phillips made the trip to the mound to settle the pitcher down.
Marcuson continued. Facing a full count with two outs, Marcuson got Colony's Jonathon Boyer to swing on a third strike, but the ball got past the catcher and rolled to the backstop.
Boyer reached safely, giving the Knights new life. But Marcuson forced another Knight to ground out to win the game.
"It's tough to have to make four outs," Phillips said.
Colony head coach Jamie Mayo said he felt the Knights made good contact against Marcuson, but they couldn't find a hole in the defense.
"I thought we did a pretty good job of hitting him," Mayo said. "Unfortunately we hit the ball right at people."
Soldotna did all of its damage at the plate during the fourth, and Marcuson factored into that success. Marcuson posted a two-run double during the Stars' four-run inning and helped give his team the four-run lead.
Jarret Urban and Josiah Covey collected consecutive singles to left field to start out the inning. Mason Kanakis bunted safely to load the bases. With the bases loaded, Marcuson doubled to center field.
Gavin Larson also had a run-scoring double in the inning to help push the Stars' lead to 4-1.
Colony answered with a pair of runs in the following inning. Morgan McJimsey was hit by a pitch and Taylor Palmer drew a walk for the Knights. Boyer used a single to center field to drive in both runners.
Colony took a 1-0 lead in the third when Isaac Ehlers reached on an error and scored on an Aaron Butcher single.
Jacob Butcher pitched a pair of solid innings in relief to keep the Knights close.
"I thought Jacob Butcher threw an outstanding (two) innings," Mayo said. "The kid came in and did exactly what we asked him to do, throw strikes and be in charge."
Colony had the tying run on third in the sixth and first in the seventh, but was unable to score the final runner.
With the loss, Colony will be left out of the state tournament for the first time in four years. It's a tough thing to swallow for the Knights now, but Mayo is excited for the future.
"There's probably more talent coming back on next year's team than possibly any year we've had," Mayo said. "Gosh, I can't remember the last time we had as many players coming back."
Colony loses only two senior starters, Palmer and Dominic Commerate.
Kodiak 9, Soldotna 7
Trailing 4-2 entering the sixth, the visiting Bears erupted for seven runs to take the conference title.
"They were all hits except for throwing errors on a pickoff," Phillips said. "Kodiak just hit the lights out of the ball. That was the story of that game."
Tyler Fritz got the start and held the Bears to two runs during the first five innings, but he didn't record an out in the sixth. Mitchel Daugherty then came in a for a few batters before Josiah Covey finished off the inning.
The Stars battled back in their half of the sixth when Max Hegge scored for a 9-5 game.
In the seventh, Soldotna scored two runs and had the bases loaded with two outs and Marcuson at the plate.
"You couldn't have scripted it any better," Phillips said.
Marcuson hit a dribbler to third and was thrown out on a close play at first.
"We were only six outs from the region championship," Phillips said. "That should give us some confidence heading into the state tournament. It should show we can play with some of these ballclubs."
Phillips said Hegge, Fritz and Marcuson were the main contributors on offense in the championship.
Covey was named first-team all-conference, while Fritz made the second team. AJ Hull made the first team from Kenai, while Ethan Oliver was on the second team.
Clarion sports editor Jeff Helminiak contributed to this report.
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