Soldotna finished third in the small-schools state softball tournament Friday and Saturday at Cartee Fields in Anchorage. It was the best finish for the program in five years of existence. The only other trip the Stars made to state was in 2008, finishing fourth.
SoHi defeated Monroe Catholic 13-6 before losing to Ketchikan 15-5 in the semifinals. Sitka notched a 4-0 victory over Ketchikan to advance to the finals. The two met again in the championship. Sitka won 6-3 to claim the small-schools state title.
The Stars were given the sportsmanship award and Alisah Kress and Lacey Norman made the all-tournament team. Brittnie Thayer and Mariah Darrow were named to the good-sports team.
"I'm really proud of them," Stars head coach Dave Cleveland said. "It was a very good year for Soldotna softball."
In its first game, SoHi gained a 6-0 advantage over Monroe by the top of the third inning.
"We came out and got on them right away," Cleveland said.
Monroe cut the lead to 8-6 but the Stars put up five runs in the fifth and final inning to seal the game.
Nikki Hegge and Brianna VinZant took over the pitching duties for injured starter Savannah Hegge. Savannah was hit in the face with a line drive during Friday's game against Sitka, sidelining her for the rest of the tournament.
Nikki pitched 2 1-3 innings and had four strikeouts. VinZant finished the game, recording two strikeouts.
Amandra Cobb reached base four times. She went 2-for-4 with an RBI and scored four times. Natalie Kress was 3-for-3 with five RBIs and an inside-the-park home run.
Against Ketchikan, the Stars saw a 5-0, first-inning lead disappear. SoHi sent 10 batters to the plate in the first, Cleveland said.
"We just couldn't get the bats to wake up after the first inning," he said.
The Kings led 7-5 going into the seventh and final inning. They put up eight runs to run away with the score.
The Stars stranded nine on base in the game, Cleveland said.
"That's what hurt us," he said. "We just couldn't get them in."
Nikki and VinZant both pitched for the Stars. Cleveland said they did a great job filling in for Savannah, and handled the pressure of the situation well.
Cleveland said his girls gave a tremendous effort.
"They played their hearts out today," he said. "They really just stepped up and everybody played as hard as they could."
Darrow, Thayer, Norman and Savannah are SoHi's graduating seniors. Four juniors, 10 sophomores and two freshmen will return next season. The incoming freshmen class, too, has strong ballplayers, Cleveland said.
"I see nothing but good tidings for the Soldotna softball program," he said.
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