In one of the most bazaar games of the season, Kodiak overcame a six-run deficit to knock off Homer, 13-9, Saturday afternoon in the Bears’ Northern Lights Conference finale at East Addition Park.
With the wild win, Kodiak clinched one of the conference’s two berths to the small-school state championships that begin June 6 at Cartee Fields in Anchorage.
The Bears finished conference play with a 6-2 record and still have a chance at claiming their first NLC title since 2010 depending on how Homer and Soldotna finish the season.
Homer and Soldotna both have two conference losses and will play each other this week. The winner of the game will most likely snag the conference’s final state berth.
“Every once in a while things happen the way you need them to,” Kodiak coach Sam Catt said.
Kodiak’s chances of earning a state berth on Saturday were looking dim when Homer jumped out to a 9-3 lead after three innings.
That changed in a wacky fourth inning in which the Bears sent 10 hitters to the plate, scored six runs and had assistant coach Jeff Holden ejected after disputing a call at first base.
Kalameli Matautia delivered a two-run double — one of five hits for the center fielder — and Celeste Chichenoff smacked a two-run triple during the inning. Chichenoff scored the tying run on a Homer error — one of two in the inning.
Kodiak (9-8 overall) took the lead for good with two runs in the fifth. Kaia Yatsik, who led the inning off with a single, scored on a Dannika Catt bunt and Matautia scored on a Chichenoff single to give the Bears a lead of 11-9.
Kodiak completed the comeback with solo runs in the sixth and seventh. Yatsik allowed only two hits and held Homer scoreless over the final four innings.
“We are not really now known as a big comeback team,” Catt said. “I knew it was possible because I always know how we can play. I was really happy. I am proud of them. They played their hearts out.”
Kodiak got a spectacular performance from Matautia. The sophomore hit two triples, two singles and a double, scored five runs and drove in three. She also made a highlight-reel diving catch in the seventh.
“There was a lot of pressure and since it was the senior’s last home game it is even more motivation because they have worked so hard for this,” Matautia said.
Down 9-3, Matautia said the team never gave up.
“We all have our mindset on where we want to be, so it is easy to go for it,” she said.
Kassidy Ellison added three singles, while Chichenoff drove in three on a triple and a double.
Kodiak, the away team, opened the first with a pair of runs, but Homer countered with five runs in its half to take a 5-2 lead.
The Mariners added a pair of runs in both the second and third to take a 9-3 lead.
Kodiak was forced to win Saturday’s game after dropping Friday’s conference game, 6-2.
Kodiak led 2-0 after the third inning on a pair of Chichenoff run-scoring singles.
Homer cut the lead in half with a solo run in the fourth and then scored four in the fifth on a pair of costly Kodiak errors to take a 5-2 lead.
Tiana Timu collected a double in the second, while a Kaitlyn Clark single in the sixth were the only other Kodiak hits off of Homer pitcher Mickey Needham, who struck out five in seven innings.
Kodiak won both nonconference games, 12-8 on Friday and 9-8 on Saturday.
Chichenoff had two hits for Kodiak on Friday, while Ellison, Matautia, Chichenoff, Clark and Jenzy Martinez all had two hits for Kodiak in Saturday’s game.
Kodiak senior’s Josephine Seward, Samantha Heglin, Timu, Yatsik, Ellison, Kristina Stobinski and Sydney Hosier were all honored before Saturday’s conference game.
On Friday and Saturday, Kodiak plays in the Mat-Su Valley.
MARINERS 6, BEARS 2
Homer 000 140 1 — 6 10 1
Kodiak 101 000 0 — 2 4 4
Needham and LaRue; Yatsik and Clark.
RBI: Homer — LaRue 1, Needham 2. Kodiak — Chichenoff 2. Triple: Homer — Needham. Double: Homer — Needham. Kodiak — Timu.Three hits: Homer — Needham. Two hits: Homer — Walls. Kodiak — Chichenoff.
Winning pitcher — Needham (Struck out five, walked two). Losing pitcher — Yatsik (Struck out eight, walked none).
BEARS 13, MARINERS 9
Kodiak 201 621 1 — 13 12 4
Homer 522 000 0 — 9 9 6
Yatsik and Clark; Needham and LaRue.
RBI: Kodiak — Catt 1, Matautia 3, Chichenoff 3, Clark 1. Homer — LaRue 1, Walls 2, Fellows 2, Kuhns 1. Triple: Kodiak — Matautia 2, Chichenoff. Double: Kodiak — Matautia. Homer — LaRue. Five hits: Kodiak — Matautia. Three hits: Kodiak — Ellison. Two hits: Kodiak — Chichenoff. Homer — LaRue, Stafford.
Winning pitcher — Yatsik (Struck out six, walked three). Losing pitcher — Needham (Struck out two, walked four).
BEARS 12, MARINERS 8
Homer 100 142 — 8 5
Kodiak 165 00x — 12 6
Double: Homer — Bolle. Two hits: Homer — Fellows. Kodiak — Chichenoff.
Winning pitcher — Yatsik (Struck out one, walked three). Losing pitcher — Jantzi (Struck out two, walked six).
BEARS 10, MARINERS 8
Kodiak 020 521 — 10 14
Homer 110 024 — 8 9
Double: Kodiak — Ellison, Chichenoff 2, Martinez. Homer — LaRue, Walls, Beach, Stafford. Two hits: Kodiak — Ellison, Chichenoff, Clark, Martinez. Homer — Stafford.
Winning pitcher — Yatsik (Struck out four, walked one). Losing pitcher — Jantzi (Struck out two, walked three).