Baseball, softball, soccer round out spring sports

Track and field kick off Homer High School’s spring sports season with the Big C Relays in Anchorage this weekend. In the wings and preparing for action are the baseball, softball and soccer teams. The coaches took time from their busy practice schedules to give a glimpse of what’s ahead.


This is Mark Putney’s third year coaching the HHS baseball team and his first year as head coach. Assisting him is Steve Fuson and Rich Sonnen, with  Chris Donich helping organize parent volunteers and fundraising efforts.

“(The season) started on the 10th, but the week of spring break was optional and a lot of people had plans to travel, so this is our first week of practice,” said Putney of a practice schedule that began March 17.

With other sports also needing indoor gym space, baseball practices were held from 6:30-8 p.m. last week, switching to 6:30-8 a.m. Batting cage practice is done in the school’s mat room, but the gym allows room to work on throwing mechanics, running, team defense, defending bunts and “a lot of team defense stuff we usually do on the infield,” said Putney.

Twenty-six HHS athletes have turned out for baseball, including two returning seniors: Nahoa Jette and Tommy Bowe.

“(Jette) is the team captain and he’ll be a good pitcher for us,” said Putney. He described Bowe, the first-baseman, as “one of the best hitters in our region and great all-around athlete.”  

Rounding out the core are returning players JJ Sonnen at second base, short stop and pitching; Brandon Beachy, short stop, second base and pitching; catcher Greg Smith; Wylie Donich, pitching, working on infield and maybe outfield; Sheldon Hutt, pitching and first base; Kyle Johnson, pitching and center field; outfielder Owen Delehanty; Paul Trowbridge and Patrick Rainwater.

One of this year’s new members is Rick Swoboda, who moved to Homer from Texas. 

“During batting practice it looks like he’s seen a lot of pitches,” said Putney. “I’ll bet the Texas weather has a lot to do with that. I’m glad to see him on the team.”

Two other new players, freshman, bring some baseball experience to the team: Garrett Butcher and Brad Bordner, both of them catchers. 

The 2014 baseball season begins with games April 25 and 26 in Kodiak, Putney’s hometown. The next two games will give Mariner fans an opportunity to see the team as they take on Colony on May 2 and 3 at Homer High School’s upper field. Other ways to support the team are at weekend carwashes in the Wells Fargo parking lot and by purchasing raffle tickets. 



“The best game around,” is Bill Bell’s description of softball. With 20 years coaching experience, 10 of them for Homer High School, who can argue? 

“It’s fast, it’s that beautiful combination of being an individual and being a team, and it encompasses the hardest thing in sports: hitting a round ball with a round bat,” said Bell. “And it’s American, by God.”

Thirty-three girls have signed up to play on this year’s HHS Mariner team — six seniors, a strong showing of sophomores and juniors, some new freshmen and a couple of transfer students with softball experience — and officially began practice March 10, just as classes dismissed for spring break.

Offering coaching assistance is Jessie Erickson, a former team member who went on to play college softball and is now back in Homer. Returning as JV coach is Holly Nolinberg, assisted by Shari Ellison. Joe Pietsch is lending a hand with batting and Mary Jo “MJ” Cambridge of the Alaska Training Room is “always right in the mix, keeping the girls in good shape,” said Bell.

Two visiting clinicians are helping the team prepare for the season ahead. The weekend of March 29, the girls worked on their pitching with Bill Hillhouse, “one of the main pitchers of the USA men’s team,” said Bell. Hillhouse has played internationally in 1990 and helped numerous countries with their pitching program “from the Olympic/National team level all the way down to the beginners,” according to information on Hillhouse’s website.

Howard Kobata, a defensive softball coach from Hawaii is working with the team. The former baseball player switched to fastpitch softball in 1967, retired from playing in 1990, and became a defensive coach for girls softball.

HHS begins its softball season with an invitational jamboree in Skyview April 18-19, moves on to games in Anchorage and then to Southeast for three days of games against Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka and Thunder Mountain.

As far as the 2014 season, Bell said the team “is all excited and very positive to be here. … I’m predicting that we are going to give it our all and play our best and we’ll see what happens. All we can control is what we do.”

A raffle for a side-by-side all terrain vehicle and some other prizes will begin soon. 

“And you can come to our games,” said Bell.


Soccer — boys

Homer High School’s upper field might not be ready for soccer yet, but the good weather has meant HHS head soccer coach Warren Waldorf, assistant Sue Rennolds and the 27 eager students have practiced in the school’s parking lot. As schedule permits, they also are getting in some gym time. 

This is Waldorf’s seventh year as head coach, Rennolds’ fifth year to assist. So far, they’re looking at a smaller team than Waldorf expected.

“It’s a significant drop in numbers this year and that’s kind of surprising,” said Waldorf. “I think they decided to do other things.”

Practices include warm-ups and activities that help establish how the team will play once they finally get onto the field.

Only two freshmen signed up for soccer. Sophomore numbers also are light.

“That’s OK,” said Waldorf. “We have quite a few juniors and quite a few seniors and they’re playing really well.”

The season’s first games will be against the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears in Juneau April 18-19. 

“They’re the perennial state champs,” said Waldorf. “The (Homer) players know they’ve got to get ready for something pretty special.”

Facing tough competition at the beginning of the season means the Mariners get an opportunity “to know how they stand against some of the best players and teams in the state. So, they’re excited. I’m excited. It’s going to be a good trip and we’ll know a bunch more after that.”

The Mariners have their first home game April 25 against Wasilla, followed by four more games in Homer.

“If people want something interesting to do, come out and watch them play,” said Waldorf.

The soccer season is tightly packed into the last part of the school year, with regions happening the end of the month and the state meet actually falling after the school year ends.

“But that’s the way it is and the kids are tough and they get through it and have a good time. They just have to be careful and watchful,” said Waldorf.

Soccer — girls

Having coached cross-country skiing, football, baseball and basketball, Mickey Todd is back for the ninth year as head coach of the Mariners’ girls soccer team.

“My wife talked me into it about 10 years ago. I said I’d do it if she’d be my assistant and that’s been awesome,” said Todd, who is again assisted by his wife, Wendy Todd. Also assisting are Piper Daugharty and Liz Needham. Todd is anticipating Bailey Lowney also will lend a hand. “They’re all great role models. And they know how I coach and what my expectations are. It’s all about involvement and being competitive with a positive attitude and having self-confidence in what we can do.”

There are 37 girls on the roster, about average according to Todd. By class, the team is comprised of five returning seniors that Todd has coached for the past three years. There are about seven juniors, 14 juniors and the rest are freshmen.

Practices began the week of March 17, with the girls meeting in the school gym from 6:30-8 a.m.

Like the other coaches, Todd is looking forward to the turf field that will be installed in the school’s lower field this summer.

“It’ll provide a safe playing surface for our programs — football, baseball, the boys soccer program, the girls soccer program and softball. With turf, we’re on it earlier,” said Todd. “It’ll be a scheduling nightmare, trying to get all the teams to use it, but at least it’ll be there. It’ll be incredible.” 

The girls kick off the 2014 soccer season by traveling to Juneau with the boys team to play the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears April 18-19. They return to Homer to play Wasilla April 25, and then have three more at-home games so local fans can show their support. Like the boys soccer season, the girls season also is short and full, with 13 90-minute games scheduled in a month. 

“We’re going to be competitive. That’s my expectation, for the girls always to be competitive,” said Todd. “Come out and support us. We’re looking forward to playing in front of the crowd.”

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at





Homer High School

2014 Spring Sports Schedule



April 25-26: Kodiak at Kodiak

May 2-3: Colony at Homer

May 5: Kenai at Homer

May 6: Soldotna at Soldotna

May 15: Wasilla at Wasilla

May 16: Palmer at Palmer

May 17: Houston at Houston

May 19: Kenai at Kenai

May 20: Soldotna at Homer

May 30: Regions, TBA



April 18-19: Skyview Jamboree at Skyview

April 28: Skyview at Skyview

May 1-2: Juneau at Juneau

May 3: Invitational Round Robin, TBA

May 5: Kenai at Kenai

May 6: Soldotna at Homer

May 13: Skyview at Homer

May 20: Soldotna at Soldotna

May 22: Houston at Houston

May 23-24: Kodiak at Kodiak

May 27: Kenai at Homer

May 30: Regions, TBA

June 5: State at Sitka


Soccer — boys

April 18-19: Juneau-Douglas at Juneau

April 25: Wasilla at Homer

May 1: Houston at Homer

May 2: Colony at Homer

May 6: Nikiski at Homer

May 7: Soldotna at Homer

May 9: Grace Christian School at GCS

May 10: Ketchikan at Homer

May 15: Kenai at Kenai

May 16: Seward at Homer

May 17: Skyview at Skyview

May 22-24: Regions at Soldotna


Soccer — girls

April 18: Juneau-Douglas at Juneau

April 25: Wasilla at Homer

May 1: Houston at Homer

May 2: Colony at Homer

May 5: Soldotna at Homer

May 6: Nikiski at Nikiski

May 7: Soldotna at Homer

May 9: Grace Christian School at GCS

May 10: Ketchikan at Homer

May 15: Kenai at Kenai

May 16: Seward at Homer

May 17: Skyview at Skyview

May 22-24: Regions at Soldotna