By SPENCER GLEASON
Daily News Sports Editor
Ketchikan and Juneau-Douglas certainly traveled a long way to play each other on Saturday, as the two high schools will meet in the ASAA state semifinal at Cartee Fields in Anchorage at 10 a.m. But as far as Kayhi head coach Kalea Allen is concerned, that’s A-OK.
“It is (a long trip to play Southeast),” she said. “But that’s the way it’s been the past few state tournaments. We honestly like it that way because we know that our region is always coming out the strongest.
“Our regular season games are always going to be some of the strongest games, and get us ready for the state tournament, more than anything,” Allen continued.
After Kayhi beat Homer High School 12-10 on Friday, and Juneau-Douglas beat Kodiak High School 15-4, the Lady Kings and Lady Crimson Bears will go head-to-head on the softball field Saturday morning for the third time in the past seven days.
Kayhi beat Juneau-Douglas twice during the Region V tournament last weekend in Juneau, including the regional championship game.
Saturday’s matchup will determine who advances to the state championship game later that day.
“We’ve seen all three of their pitchers, now,” Allen said. “We’ve seen (Kiah) Yadao; we’ve seen (Mariah) Schauwecker, and (Mila) Hargrave. ... We know we’re going to see one of those three. ... We know they each have something to bring — something a little bit different.
“So we just have to go up to the plate knowing what we do know, and then let the rest happen,” she continued. “Just go up there with the goal to have quality at-bats, no matter who’s on the mound.”
The Lady Kings certainly had quality at-bats during their state tournament game against Homer on Friday afternoon.
Helped along by a solo home run by Kenzie Pahang, Kayhi jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first two innings.
It was Pahang’s second home run in as many days.
“She’s finally peaking at the right time,” Allen said. “She had a little slump not too long ago and we just had to keep her dialed in, and remind her that this is her first year on varsity. She didn’t have her freshman season. So she’s filling some big shoes with little experience doing so. She just had to stay patient, and keep doing what she knows — and the big hits will come.”
Pahang has been in the zone during the state tournament. Both home runs went to straightaway center field.
“That was a good hit,” Allen continued. “She definitely got all of that ball, and it was just right over deep center. It’s good to see her hard work paying off.”
Homer sent nine batters to the plate in the top half of the third inning, taking a brief 4-3 lead over Kayhi.
But the Lady Kings responded by scoring four runs of their own in the bottom half, and they never relinquished the lead.
Kayhi’s Nyah Edenshaw and Dyllan Borer started the inning with back-to-back singles. Edenshaw scored on a heads-up base running play during a popout to Homer’s first baseman.
After Pahang ripped a double, both Borer and Pahang scored on an extra-base hit by Maggie Boehlert.
Boehlert eventually crossed the dish, as well, scoring on a groundout by Lyla Seludo. The Lady Kings had a 7-4 lead after that third inning.
“We came out with a lot more energy ... and that was something we had talked about after (Thursday’s) game,” Allen said. “... Scoring each inning is our goal, and we were able to do that the first few innings, and then keep chipping away from there, on out.”
Kayhi needed to keep chipping away. Homer didn’t go down without a fight, as the Mariners regularly stayed one or two runs behind Kayhi the rest of the way.
Homer plated a pair in the top of the fourth, inching closer to Kayhi, 7-6. But again, the Lady Kings responded by scoring two more of their own in the bottom half.
Kayhi’s Rylie Welk and Shaelyn Mendoza both scored in the frame.
Welk scurried home, all the way from first base, on a bunt single by Mendoza.
An errant throw sailed into right field, allowing Welk to score, and Mendoza wound up on second base. Mendoza scored on an RBI by Borer.
And the back-and-forth affair continued until Kayhi recorded the final out, winning 12-10.
Hannah’s big day
In addition to Kayhi scoring a dozen runs, Lady Kings starting pitcher Hannah Moody struck out 12 Homer Mariners.
Of the first nine Mariners’ outs — through three innings — Moody already had eight strike outs.
“That was huge,” Allen said. “She definitely got in her groove, and when Hannah gets in her groove, there’s no stopping her.”
Saturday morning’s semifinal against Juneau-Douglas will be livestreamed on the Lady Kings’ Facebook page — Lady Kings Softball — and also will be on KTKN radio.
If the Lady Kings win, they will play for the state championship at 2:45 p.m. on Saturday.
The ASAA state softball tournament is double-elimination. Kayhi has stayed in the winner’s bracket, and would have to be beaten twice to get knocked out.
The Lady Kings could play anywhere between two and four games on Saturday.
“We’re hoping for good games, but as few games as possible,” Allen said. “Four in a day would be hard to prepare for. We’ve done it before, but it’s hard to come out with your best energy on that last game. We just take it one game at a time.”