• Ketchikan bats prove too powerful for exhausted Lady M’s
By Sean Pearson
A roster chock full of talented seniors, a knowledgeable and experienced coaching staff, an incredibly positive attitude and work ethic and even a police escort out of town just weren’t enough to push the Homer Lady Mariners to the top of the small-schools state championship at Cartee Fields in Anchorage over the weekend.
The Mariners opened the tourney on Friday against the Ketchikan Kings. The result of that game would unfortunately foreshadow what was to come later in the tournament for the Lady M’s.
Home runs by seniors Miranda Beach and Kayla Hutt kept things close for Homer in game one. The two accounted for all four RBIs in the 4-6 loss. Senior pitcher Hannah Larue gave up six runs on seven hits, and struck out five batters. But mental fielding errors and 14 Homer strikeouts sealed their losing fate.
“We did well, but we had a lot of mental errors that brought us down,” said Mariner senior second basemen Maggie Graham.
The Mariners subsequently dropped to the consolation bracket to face off against Kodiak just two hours later. Homer scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning and one in the third, maintaining their 3-0 lead until the top of the sixth inning. The Bears managed to sneak two runs across the plate, but couldn’t come up with enough to overcome the Homer lead.
Maggie Graham hit her first home run of the season, while Hannah Larue added a double. Larue pitched for the 3-2 win, throwing 67 strikes out of 100 pitches.
Saturday opened with Homer facing the Eielson Ravens bright and early at 9 a.m. The Lady M’s proved well-rested, scoring 15 runs on 9 hits for the 15-9 win. Katie Kirsis and Beach each picked up two hits for the game, with Kirsis, Maggie Larue and Hannah LaRue leading the team with three RBIs. Kirsis, Beach and Needham each tripled, while Hutt added a double. Larue picked up the save after Needham pitched five innings and struck out five batters.
Homer runners were aggressive on the bases, picking up 10 stolen bases.
Following their fight back up the brackets, the Lady M’s again squared off against Ketchikan just two hours after the big win over Eielson.
Homer Coach Bill Bell had hoped to pitch Larue against the Kings, but she sprained her ankle sliding into third against Eielson, and he was forced to start with Needham.
Ketchikan pounded the ball in the first three innings, picking up all nine of their runs for the game thanks to 10 Lady King hits — one of them a two-run homerun, and the other, a grand slam.
Homer never really got their bats going, picking up only two hits for the game and striking out five times. The 0-9 loss left the Mariners in third place.
Ketchikan went on to face Sitka in the championship game Saturday afternoon, falling in a 6-7 squeaker that gave Sitka their fourth-straight small-schools championship.
“In that fourth game against Ketchikan, they really just out-hit us,” Graham said. “A few fielding errors by us and solid hitting by them allowed them to score. The two-run homer and grand slam didn’t help either.”
Graham said the weekend was certainly disappointing, but felt like the team continued to work hard throughout the entire game.
“It’s quite exhausting to play so much and I think we felt that in the fourth game on Saturday,” she said. “I’m happy with how the team played, but I would have liked to see us all do our best.”
According to Graham, it was the Lady Mariners’ “mental errors” that increased the pressure to pick up hits.
“I think we hit fairly well,” she said. “Miranda had great batting all weekend, as did Mcki Needham. And Kayla, Miranda and I all hit homeruns too. That was sweet.”
Graham credits much of the team’s success this season as a whole to Coach Bill Bell.
“He’s an amazing coach, undeniably the best I’ve ever had,” she said. “I know that if you asked anyone who’s ever played for him, they’d agree.”
Graham said Bell is supportive and incredibly understanding and flexible.
“He deserves every success and victory that comes his way,” she said. “I hope he has a team that can win the state title for him soon.”
Graham said she has learned so much from the coaching staff, she knows she has the basics to play softball just about anywhere.
“I don’t think people understand how awesome the softball program is in Homer unless they’ve played for it or had a kid that participated,” she explained. “I wouldn’t want to play for any other team in the world.”
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