The Homer Mariners brought the bats and Mother Nature did the rest.
On a day when gusty winds challenged fielders to catch a pop-up, the Homer softball team blasted Soldotna with 19 base hits to record a 20-8 Northern Lights Conference win in five innings.
Junior catcher Brianna Hetrick provided the most power with 4-for-5 hitting and seven runs batted in, including a solo shot in the third inning that ricocheted off the left-field fence. Hetrick said that was her first home run in high school softball.
“It felt like I reached for it too much,” Hetrick said. “It was nice.”
The win snaps a five-game losing skid for Homer, which moves to 3-6 overall and 1-0 in the conference. SoHi drops to 0-1 in the conference.
Hetrick opened the scoring for the Mariners with a two-run double in the first inning and a sacrifice fly in the second, then cranked out her homer in the third before settling for a two-run single in the fourth and an RBI single in the fifth.
Eight Mariner batters recorded RBIs. Grace Godfrey hit 3 for 3 with a triple and drew two walks to score five times, Kaitlyn Johnson was 3 for 4 with three runs and Aspen Walli brought in two runs on a hit and drew two walks.
SoHi was led by third- and fourth-hole hitters Casey Earll and Reece Wick. Earll was 3 for 4 with three RBIs and Wick, a freshman, hit 2 for 2 with three RBIs and two walks. Leadoff hitter Ashley McDonald scored three runs off four walks, drawing praise from SoHi head coach Kelli Knoebel.
“Offensively, we were getting runners on,” Knoebel said. “But more importantly it’s getting outs (on defense).
“Hats off to Homer, they hit the crap out of the ball.”
In the pitching circle, Homer sophomore Annalynn Brown struck out five and issued six walks while getting tagged with 11 hits.
Soldotna pitcher Tara Lyn Frates walked 13 batters with just one strikeout, and had her hands full all day with a pitch count of 153.
Homer head coach Bill Bell said after a five-game losing skid, it was good to see his Mariners moving the runners.
“I was pleased to see us hitting better,” he said. “After last weekend (against Dimond and Eagle River) this one felt good.”
Bell said with the wind gusts blowing sideways across the diamond, he made sure his team was ready.
“We spent a half hour before the game hitting fly balls,” Bell said.
After Brown and Grace Godfrey opened the game with a walk and a single, respectively, Hetrick brought them in to score with a double. Homer then scored twice more with two outs to establish a 4-0 lead.
The Stars cut the lead to 4-3 in the bottom of the first, helped by a two-run single by Wick on a line drive to right field.
In the bottom of the second, SoHi again cut into the gap with an infield single by Earll and a single by Wick with two outs, making for a 6-5 game.
Homer finally broke it wide open with six runs in the top of the third. Brown scored a run with a triple, and two more scored on a passed ball and an error. Hetrick’s homer put the Mariners up 10-5 with still no outs.
In the fourth inning, Brown and Godfrey reached on a single and hit-by-pitch, and Hetrick scored them with a scorching single down the left-field line.