Less than a week after claiming a 19-0 softball victory over the Kenai Central Kardinals in Kenai on May 14, the Homer Mariners racked up a quick 15-0 win against the Kenai team in three short innings in Homer on Saturday.
That gives the Mariners a 17-9 overall, and a 6-2 in the Northern Lights Conference, with their only loss to Kodiak as they head into Regions on Friday. Kodiak is ranked No. 1 in the NLC, while Homer is No. 2.
“Kodiak’s a very good team. It’s going to be hard to beat them at Regions, but we’re going to give it our best,” said Mariner Assistant Coach Hannah Zook.
Saturday also was the last home game for the Mariners this season. Prior to the game’s start, the team’s only senior, Brianna Hetrick, was honored for her contributions, as was Claudia Fernandez, a foreign exchange student from Spain. Hetrick is the team’s catcher. Fernandez plays first base on the junior varsity team and occasionally is a courtesy runner for varsity.
Mariner Annalynn Brown, whose pitching has earned her the nickname “T-Rex,” sent a clear message to the Kardinals with an opening strike across home plate, followed by a second one. In short order, the Mariners were up to bat and scored six runs by Grace Godfrey, Brown, Kaitlyn Johnson, Kaylin Anderson, Haylee Owen and Zoe Adkins.
The second inning was another whirlwind. The Kardinals were unable to get a runner into home, but the Mariners added eight more runs, thanks to two by Godfrey and one each for Hetrick, Johnson, Owen, Adkins and Hannah Hatfield.
The loud crack of ball against bat marked solid hitting by the Mariner team. In the second inning, Hetrick connected with the ball in what looked like a home run, but fell just short of the fence before bouncing over.
“The hits are coming together, for sure. The Mariners are becoming a very great batting team,” Zook said. “We have quite a few strong batters that connect with the ball. They’ve been working hard at it this whole season.”
After Kenai failed to score in the top of the third inning, it took only one final run by Homer’s Owen to bring the game to a mercy-rule end with a final score of 15-0.
Earlier in the afternoon, the JV team also scored a victory and then helped varsity athletes in the Mariner dugout maintain an almost-constant chatter as they cheered for teammates.
“It’s a huge part of our Mariner softball experience. It’s not so much about the game as it is building yourself and your teammates up,” said Zook, who has been the Mariner’s assistant softball coach for four years. “We’re more about the people than the game. We want to win, as well as grow each and every day and work through all the situations in life, as well as in softball.”
Zook credited Coach Bill Bell with establishing that all-around focus.
“That’s what I really enjoy about working with him. It’s the main focus with him, life skills,” she said.
Bell, in Sitka for a family event, was absent from both games against Kenai, but will be back in time for Regions.
“He’ll be back Tuesday and keep prepping us for Regions and hopefully on to state,” said Zook.
With only one senior on the team, Zook said the Mariners look “really good” for the 2020 season.
“We have a solid team, a good variety of ages and a lot willing to learn,” Zook said. “It’s been a blast working with them, seeing them push on toward Regions and State. They’re just growing each and every day and are awesome individuals to work with.”
Regions begin for the Mariners in Kenai at 12:30 p.m. Friday, when Homer takes on SoHi. To follow the Mariners, download the Game Changer app or visit the web at marinersoftball.net.