Kenai Central ends run at state softball tournament

The Kenai Central softball team ended its season with two losses Friday at the Division II state softball tournament at Cartee Fields in Anchorage.

The Kardinals (11-16 overall), making the program’s first appearance at the state tournament, lost 9-0 in five innings to Juneau-Douglas Kale and 13-5 in five innings to Kodiak in the double-elimination bracket. Kenai finishes tied for fifth at the tourney.

Kenai head coach Bob Frates said getting to state and seeing that level of competition was a huge step forward for his young team, which loses seniors Sarai Bravo-Moe, Izzie Katzenberger, Shelby Hemphill and Kaitlyn Taylor.

“I think this is a big confidence booster,” Frates said. “It will definitely set the tempo for these girls for next year.

“What I shared with them is that in building for next year, this will be a good launching point for us.”

Kenai’s bats went silent against Juneau, with the only hit going to Avery Ellis, who was player of the game. Frates said the Kards had done fine against similar pitching this season.

“At the end of the day, nerves got the better of us,” Frates said. “I’m not sure what else it could have been.

“The girls were just taking it all in and were awestruck being here. They thought maybe some of these teams were way above us as far as their play and they’re not.”

Ellis went 4 1-3 innings on the mound, giving up nine runs — eight earned — on 10 hits while walking five and striking out three.

The Kards were in the game against Kodiak, which finished 7-0 against Kenai. Kenai trailed 5-4 after 2 1-2 innings, but the Bears scored two in the third, two in the third, two in the fourth and four in the fifth.

“Once we played Kodiak, we thought, ‘We’d been here. We’d done this,’” Frates said. “The bats came alive. I think we played Kodiak more solid than we did at the region tournament.”

Hemphill was named the player of the game, going 2 for 2 with a run. Kailey Stynsberg was 2 for 3 with two runs, while Kyana Griskevich was 2 for 3 with three RBIs.

Frates said the defense was really good all tournament, with the outfield standing out. The coach said the one outfielder in particular to stand out was Bravo-Moe.

“She couldn’t miss out there,” Frates said. “I could hear other team members saying, ‘Don’t hit it to center field.’”

Lola McEwen pitched 4 2-3 for the Kardinals, giving up 13 runs — 12 earned — on 16 hits while walking two and striking out none.

Frates thanked so many parents for traveling up to the games.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “It demonstrates the support the program has. It’s nice to see.”

The Kardinals also got the sportsmanship award at the tournament.