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Homer softball coach Bill Bell said his team rarely gets rattled. 052911 PREPSPORTS 1 Peninsula Clarion Homer softball coach Bill Bell said his team rarely gets rattled.

Photo By M. Scott Moon

Homer's Kayla Hutt tags Soldotna's Natalie Kress out at third in the fourth inning Saturday.


Photo By M. Scott Moon

Soldotna's Alisah Kress makes a throw to first for an out against Homer in the third inning Saturday.

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Story last updated at 5/29/2011 - 2:16 pm

Mariners wear NLC crown



Homer softball coach Bill Bell said his team rarely gets rattled.

On Saturday, Soldotna couldn't argue.

Hannah Larue pitched a complete game and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the seventh inning to preserve a 5-3 win at Guy and Judy Hayes Field as the Mariners earned a second consecutive Northern Lights Conference regular-season championship.

The Mariners (15-9 overall, 8-0 NLC) receive a first-round bye at the small-schools state tournament, which begins Friday at Cartee Fields in Anchorage. The Stars (10-9, 6-2) get the NLC No. 2 seed and face a yet-to-determined opponent at 9 a.m.

"We've just got to keep playing big. They've got the skills, we just keep reminding them to take it one pitch at a time and not get rattled," Bell said. "They do a pretty good job of not getting rattled when things don't go their way."

Larue, who allowed five hits and had four strikeouts, took a 5-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh and retired the first two batters.

That's when Nikki Hegge and Serena Prior earned consecutive walks on full-count pitches. Briana VinZant, who was 2-for-3, then had the at-bat of the game, fouling off seven pitches before roping a single to left field to load the bases.

Alisah Kress hit a lazy line drive to Homer shortstop Brooke DeVaney, who bobbled the ball, allowing a run to score and keeping the bases loaded.

That set the stage for Kaycee Munn, SoHi's leading home-run hitter. Munn sent a dribbler toward third base and Prior was thrown out at home.

"We felt the hitters could have been a little more picky, a little more selective on the pitches they want to hit, make the pitcher work quite a bit," SoHi coach Dave Cleveland said. "You need to attack, drive the ball, you want to rip the cover off it. That's what we're going to work on, is getting some killer instinct at the plate."

Although the teams combined for nine errors -- Homer four and Soldotna five -- the coaches agreed it was a well-played game.

VinZant started for the Stars and matched Larue inning-for-inning. VinZant pitched six innings, allowing three runs -- two earned -- on four hits. She finished with four strikeouts and a walk, hitting one batter.

Larue, who also had two RBIs, was equally effective. She threw 115 pitches and didn't issue a walk until the seventh.

"She was just real consistent," Bell said. "She's unflappable, she just bears down and takes it pitch by pitch."

The game was tied at 2 through four innings before Homer took a 3-2 advantage in the top of the fifth when Ashley Ketelle hit a go-ahead single to left.

A pair of runs in the top of the seventh off Hegge, who replaced VinZant to start the inning, gave the Mariners a 5-2 cushion.

"That's real big," Bell said of the insurance runs. "That made it a lot more comfortable."

The Stars, who placed third at state last season, went undefeated in the NLC, excluding games against Homer. The Mariners won the first meeting 12-7 in Homer.

VinZant believes SoHi is capable of beating Homer -- and making a deep run in the postseason -- if the team plays to its potential at the plate.

"We need to bat more consistently," VinZant said. "It's got to be all the way around."

Despite the loss, expectations are high for the Stars entering state.

Cleveland wants the team to improve upon its third-place finish of 2010.

"We'll have them ready to play next week," the coach said. "We want to take it all. This team can do it."





THE REC GUIDE

WINTER ACTIVITIES

If you think the Kenai Peninsula is beautiful in the summer, you should see it when cloaked under a thick blanket of white with the aurora borealis rippling through the celestial canopy above.

BERRIES OF THE KENAI PENINSULA

Whether intentionally seeking berries for jellies and jams or just out for a casual hike, residents and visitors will find the 50-some varieties of wild berries in Alaska hard to resist.

COMMON SENSE SURVIVAL

There’s adventure and beauty in the wild country, but also an element of risk.



2010 Peninsula Clarion award winners

Best Education Reporting
1st Place – Dante Petri, “All under one roof

Suzan Nightingale Award: Best Columnist

2nd Place – Will Morrow, “Voices of the Clarion”

Best Sustained Coverage

3rd Place – Dante Petri, “Mt. Redoubt Eruption”

Best News Photo

3rd Place – M. Scott Moon, “Bear Rescue

Best Photo Portrait
3rd Place – M. Scott Moon, “Ear Gauger

Best Audio Slideshow
2nd Place – M. Scott Moon, “Learning to ski

Best Use of Story and Photos by a Journalist
2nd Place – Joseph Robertia, “Dipnet disaster averted

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