Lady Mariners head to state softball championship games with 9-1 record

Since May 22, the Homer Lady Mariners have defeated the Skyview Panthers, split a senior night double header against the Kodiak Bears, and then finished their regular season by shutting out the Kenai Kardinals on the road.

Hannah LaRue stole the show on both sides of the ball against the Panthers on May 22, batting in four runners on two hits as well as pitching the lights out on the defensive end, allowing no earned runs, eight strikeouts, and only one hit in her six innings of magic.

The Mariners tallied seven runs within the first three innings to create a cushion thanks to the active bats of seniors LaRue, Katie Kirsis, and Miranda Beach, the National Fastpitch Coaches Association West Region Player of the Week. Beach, who has been playing exceptional softball as of late, received this award over many other players and teams from 13 different states. 

Seven more points came from Homer at the top of the sixth thanks to runs scored by Maggie Graham, Pam Jantzi, Maggie LaRue and Addie Davis. 

Homer dominated throughout and came away with a 14-1 win on the road.

The magic Mariners then hosted a double header senior night on May 23 against Kodiak. In the first game, things were evenly matched early as the Bears were able to tie it up at four a piece in the fourth inning. Hannah LaRue then took over with a fifth-inning home run and a next hit double to ignite the 7-5 win late in the game. The Mariners were evenly matched at that point as LaRue gave up five runs and seven strikeouts in her seven innings of pitching.

“The last two games with Kodiak were good practice for State,” said Homer Head Coach Bill Bell. “They have made good progress since we saw them in Sitka and will be a strong representative from the Northern Lights Conference at the state tournament.”

The Bears came out of the game break with a fire under their seats as they put on an offensive show and earned a 10-3 win. The Mariners looked good early in the game until giving up three runs in the third inning to draw first blood. 

Senior Kayla Hutt answered the call in the fourth inning, blasting a two RBI homer out of the park to bring the Mariners within striking distance. Kodiak came through in the bottom half of the inning with a six run rally, leaving Homer with just two more innings to produce offense. The lead was cut to six in the fifth but then stretched back out to seven as the Bears seemed to use their first game as an ultimate scouting report for the Mariners, handing them their only conference loss of the season.

Bell noted that this game was a chance to get different players playing different positions to see who rose to the challenge. Bell was pleased with how the game went despite the loss, noting that everyone had a chance to get the speed of the game before state competition.

The Lady Mariners then took to Kenai on Saturday to challenge the Kards for their final game of the regular season. 

McKie Needham and Hannah LaRue shared pitching duties, not allowing a single run in their efforts on the mound. 

The Mariners brought four runs across in the top of the first to get things rolling early.  Beach racked up four RBIs with her three hits, finishing with two singles and a double as Homer’s top offensive performer for the day. The second and third inning were scoreless until another surge of offense came from the Mariners in the fourth as they sent eight runners around to score with no problem. The Homer defense held strong again in the bottom half on the fourth to secure the double digit mercy rule win, 12-0.

Coach Bell has high hopes for the Mariners, saying, “State tournament is going to be a shootout to see who is playing best on a particular day. I think that Homer, Ketchikan and Sitka are all closely matched and the game will come down to mental lapses and lack of execution. “ 

The red-hot Mariners finished off the regular season on top of the Northern Lights Conference for the fourth year in a row with a 9-1 record which earned them a bye in the first round of the Alaska State Championships held this weekend in Sitka.

Homer has its first game of the small schools state championships at 3 p.m. Friday at the Cartee Fields in Anchorage.