• Hot hitting gives Homer come-fro-behind win
By Sean Pearson
With a 9-7 road win over the Soldotna Starts on Saturday, Mariner baseball seems to be finding their stride. A fleeting Alaska high school baseball season, however, demands they pick up their pace pretty quickly.
With Regions less than two weeks away, Homer Head Coach Mark Putney said he was pleased with how the team played on Saturday.
“We seem to have put all the pieces together,” he said. “It was a fun game.”
It wasn’t too fun in the beginning.
Brandon Beachy started on the mound for Homer, but the M’s fell behind early, allowing the Stars to score five runs in bottom of the first. The Mariners answered with a run of their own in the second inning, when Tommy Bowe walked, stole second, and then came around to score on an RBI single by Michael Swoboda.
Junior hurler Sheldon Hutt took the mound for Homer in the second, throwing three shutout innings backed by strong defense. He kept firing strikes, and held Soldotna scoreless until the fifth inning.
The Mariners chipped away at the Stars’ lead, taking advantage of a couple of SoHi errors to score a second run in the fifth. But Soldotna responded with a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth, extending their lead to 7-2.
Kyle Johnson took over pitching duties for Homer with one out in the fifth, and promptly ended the inning when SoHi hit into a double play.
“I just wanted to make them hit the ball,” Johnson said of his pitching. “I knew my defense could make the plays behind me.”
Homer pulled out the rally caps in the sixth, with a stand-up double from Owen Delehanty, and singles from Greg Smith and Bowe. Soldotna throwing errors and aggressive Mariner base-running gave Homer three more runs, closing the Stars’ lead to two points.
With a little help from left fielder Nahoa Jette, Johnson quieted Soldotna bats, holding the team scoreless in the bottom of the sixth.
Things began to look a bit doubtful for the M’s in the top of the seventh, with a strike-out and a fielder’s choice on a Johnson bunt leaving the M’s with two quick outs.
But JJ Sonnen’s base hit up the middle kept Homer’s hopes alive. A Delehanty walk, a couple of steals and a clutch hit from Greg Smith tied the game at 7.
“I tried to do what I did in Kenai (hit a triple),” Smith said. “I pulled the ball a little too much, but the ball took a hard hop near the shortstop and got through to drive in two runs.”
Bowe followed with a booming two-run home run to deep left field, putting the Mariners on top 9-7.
Homer held off a seventh-inning SoHi rally, nearly shutting down the Stars at the plate, A single dropped into right center field putting two on with one out. Bowe snagged a high pop up for the second out, before Johnson dropped a nasty breaking ball over the plate for a called third strike — and final out.
“I was impressed with how our team responded early in the game, chipping away at SoHi’s five-run lead,” Putney said. “Our defense played a solid game all around — and we didn’t give up.”
Homer’s junior varsity also came away with a road win, outscoring the younger Stars 8-4.
Hot hits came from James Webber, Bradley Bordner, Woape Huffman and Collin McCampbell.
“We played hard and didn’t make many mistakes,” McCampbell said. “Owen did an excellent job of pitching and our defense kept us in the game.”
Mariner baseball hits the road again this week, traveling north to take on Wasilla on Thursday, Palmer on Friday and Houston on Saturday.
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