Mariner softball players reflect on 2024 season

After the school year ends, Homer High School’s softball team still has a few weeks left of their 2024 season. They’re traveling to Palmer for a conference tournament this weekend where they’ll also compete with Houston and Reddington teams and then will head to Kodiak on May 17. Regions will be held in the Matanuska-Susitna district and the state tournament will be in Fairbanks from May 30-June 1 at the South Davis Complex, hosted by ASAA, Lathrop High School & Interior Girls Softball Association.

The team is coached by Bill Bell, who started his position as the head coach in 2004.

There are 28 players on the team this year; in the past it has been as large as 37. Bell noted that the Mariner team has made it to the state tournament every year that he has been coaching. The assistant coach this year is Elsie Smith and there are several other previous players who work as assistants. The 2024 season started on March 4 with 10 seniors on the team.

Rebecca Trowbridge, a junior, has been playing with the Mariners since she was a freshman but also played summer ball with the community league starting in sixth grade. She noted that she’s excited to attend the Kodiak event. She said the team typically goes every other year.

Trowbridge said the softball team often uses the community Jack Gist Park for their practices located on East End Road. “If the weather is really rainy, sometimes we use the dome on coach Bell’s property but once the Gist field is ready, we’re pretty much out here every day,” she said. Trowbridge also plays volleyball with the Mariners.

Keagan Niebuhr, a sophomore, is playing for her second year on varsity. She plays first base and sometimes pitches. Niebuhr said the upcoming conference tournament is where the team will be seated for the region games. She mentioned that the team was also able to attend a tournament in Sitka this year.

Niebuhr also participates in Mariner volleyball and basketball.

She called Bell “an excellent coach.”

“He’s very supportive and he cares about all of us. He supports us in things other than softball, like our school work. He checks on all our grades and makes sure we’re all on top of everything.”

Taylor Fraley, a junior, plays both varsity and junior varsity. She has been playing for two years.

“I really like the team dynamic and I really like coach Bell; he’s great and I’ve learned from a lot being on the team. Also, all of the seniors and older girls are really supportive of the younger girls. It’s really nice, if you don’t know what you’re doing coming in here, it’s OK because they’ll help you out.”

Fraley said she really enjoys playing the Kenai team. “We’re still really busy with the end of the school year and we have missed a lot of school but we can still work really hard in school and still be rewarded by coming and being on the team.”

Ariana Davis, a senior, has played all four years with the high school but has been playing softball since she was in fourth grade with Little League.

She said one of her most memorable games this year was the Bash on the Bay tournament. “I got a home run in a game with the Valley and that was my first one, so that was pretty exciting.”

The Bash on the Bay tournament had five teams compete: Chugiak, Kenai, Soldotna High School, West Valley and Homer. Chugiak won the tournament.

“My favorite team to play is Colony. They’re in a different division than us, but we play them for experience and it’s really fun,” Davis said.

Davis also works as a dog trainer in Homer and plans to attend a canine training school in North Carolina next fall.

Bell said the team dedicated the 2024 season to former Mariner athlete Bri Hetrick, who was killed in Homer in the fall of 2023. Hetrick’s boyfriend was charged in her killing.

“I’m trying to use that to keep all of the players aware of how horrible the epidemic of domestic violence is in this state and how we can build up confidence and strength in them to hopefully avoid that,” Bell said.

Bell has been coaching baseball or T-ball in Homer since about 1990 with the local Little League teams.

He also mentioned the newer Homer softball league called Tsunami Softball for players age 8 to 18. Registration is open for Tsunami Softball until May 18. Instructions for how to register are available on the Homer softball webpage at:

“As a coach, it’s a real honor to be able to work with the teenage girls and help build up confidence and strength and resiliency in them,” he said.