• Homer exits Regions after dropping 2 close games
By Sean Pearson
Just about any red-blooded, American public school student past the second grade will tell you that summer can never come too soon. And if it’s your senior year in high school, well, chances are you’ve already “left the building” long before that final bell rang.
For a relatively small minority of high school athletes in Alaska, however, the “end” of the school year equals the end of a sports season. Last man standing takes State — so why would anyone want to leave early?
Homer High School baseball ended its season last week, but they didn’t go down without a fight.
The Mariners opened first-round Regional play against Colony on Thursday, where they bested the Knights 3-1 and moved on to face the Houston Hawks. Homer lost 6-5 in extra innings and not without a lot of excitement.
“We played well” said senior Tommy Bowe. “I thought we made enough good plays to beat Houston, but we just couldn’t pull it off.”
Kyle Johnson opened on the mound for Homer, and the M’s opened the scoring on a second-inning single by Brandon Beachy.
Houston answered with two hits in the top of the third, but hits from Mariners Nahoa Jette, Wylie Donich and JJ Sonnen evened the score at 2.
A hit batter and some tough Homer errors allowed Houston to pick up another two runs in the fifth. But before the Hawks could get a rally going, Sonnen, Beachy and Bowe connected on a bases-loaded double play that shut Houston’s offense down.
The M’s added another run in the bottom of the fifth, thanks to a Bowe double and an RBI single from Swoboda, but the Hawks still held a 5-3 lead going into the bottom of the seventh inning.
Unflinchingly, Homer’s Greg Smith stepped up to the plate and drilled a home run deep over the left field fence. Not to be outdone, Bowe squared off against a new Houston pitcher, and tied the game with a home run over the center field fence.
“I didn’t realize it was the bottom of the seventh,” Bowe said. “So, the home run (to tie) was a bigger deal than I thought it was.”
Despite a subsequent single by Swoboda and walk by Beachy, the M’s could not score the winning run, and the game went into extra innings.
Any hope of a Homer come-from-behind win in extra innings was completely lost when Houston scored the winning run in the top of the eighth inning against reliever Sheldon Hutt.
The loss moved the M’s to the consolation bracket, where they would face the Soldotna Stars on Friday.
While Homer was able to defeat SoHi twice in close games during the regular season, this time was apparently Soldotna’s turn; the Stars walked a way with a 9-5 win over the Mariners.
Donich was on the mound for Homer and gave up one run in the first inning. Bowe responded with a 2-run home run in the bottom of the first, and hits from Swoboda and Donich gave the boys in blue a 3-1 lead.
Hits, walks and a Homer error handed the lead back to the Stars in the second inning, where they racked up five runs. Bowe walked in the bottom of the third, eventually scoring on Donich’s second hit of the game. Beachy reached on an error, and then intentionally got in a run down to allow courtesy runner Hutt to score.
Taking advantage of Homer errors, Soldotna jumped out to a 9-5 lead in the fourth. Hutt pitched the last three innings for the M’s. He shut down SoHi bats, retiring the nine batters he faced.
Unfortunately, the Mariners couldn’t get their bats going either, and late-inning hits from Donich and Owen Delehanty proved unproductive.
“It was a great season,” Donich said. “Everyone did their job and we came together as a team.”
Donich certainly did his job at bat. In seven tournament appearances at the plate, he pounded five hits and picked up a walk.
The loss ended the season for Mariner players, as well as for the Homer High coaching career of Mark Putney, who is moving away.
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