Determined Mariners take third in softball

The Mariner softball team had a rocky start to the season and found it hard to score a win. As the season progressed they found their footing as a team and pulled together in time for the Alaska School Activities Association state softball tournament last Friday and Saturday and were awarded third place.

In an interview before the tournament, Head Coach Bill Bell said the team had made great strides since the beginning of the season.

“I intentionally started us off playing some of the toughest teams in state,” said Bell. “I did not intend that we would be 0-13 before we got the first win, and was planning that we would win at least a third of those games, but it took us a while to find ourselves and not be fragmented.”

Homer demonstrated the newly found finesse in their first game of three on Friday, dominating Hutchinson with a 17-0 shutout. 

The Mariners scrambled to defend during the next game against Juneau-Douglas and got knocked into the loser bracket with a loss of 15-0 to the Crimson Bears who would later be crowned the champions of the state tournament.

In their last game on Friday the Mariners were able to pull off an 8-3 victory against North Pole, lining them up for an early Saturday game against Kodiak. A win against Kodiak would give Homer a chance to compete in the semifinal round.

“We have seen a lot of Kodiak and Kodiak has seen a lot of us,” said Bell. The two teams had traded wins and losses throughout the season, but Homer was determined to bag the final win.

“We wanted to show them that even though we were tied in the conference we were the better team,” Bell told the Peninsula Clarion.

The Mariners scored a 13-5 win over their rival Bears, outhitting them 14-5.

In their final game on Saturday, the Mariners played Juneau-Douglas again, and lead the semi-final game 5-2 until the sixth inning. 

In the third, McKi Needham was called out of the game for “malicious contact” and the team struggled to maintain the lead without their starting pitcher. Juneau-Douglas took the 13-5 win and continued on to beat Ketchikan for the state tournament championship. 

“I was really impressed with the girls,” said Bell.

“They never got discouraged with the 0-13, and they kept fighting and became stronger as the season progressed, which is what you want to do.” 

For information on summer softball that also is open to those out of high school, contact Bell at 399-1042 or Holly Nolingberg at 299-2041.

Joey Klecka of the Peninsula Clarion also contributed to this story. Shannon Reid is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.