For the first time since COVID-19 paused the island’s sports scene in mid-March, a team from The Rock competed on the mainland.
The Island Warriors — a newly-formed USA Softball 18U team — took part in the State Junior Olympics Tournament over the weekend at Lorretta French Fields in Eagle River.
The team — comprised of players between the ages of 14 and 18 — went 0-4 in the tournament, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was that softball returned to the island after the high school season was canceled.
“I was smiling from start to finish,” coach Tom Bolen said. “The last game was stressful, but — I probably said it four or five times to the girls — that isn’t it great to be back.”
The last game was a heartbreaker, a 15-14 consolation loss to the Fairbanks-based Alaska North Stars Sunday morning.
Down 10-4 in the sixth inning, and with the time-limit looming, Kodiak exploded for 10 runs to grab a four-run lead.
North Star got even in the bottom of the sixth to force extra innings.
The Fairbanks squad — composed of girls from Lathrop, West Valley and North Pole high schools — won it in the seventh after Kodiak failed to score in the top half of the frame.
“It was one of the more exciting games that I have been a part of as a coach,” Bolen said. “Again, to have the younger classmen witness it, and to hit the ball and to rise up when we had to have runs — these girls just crushed the ball.”
Kodiak opened the double-elimination bracket on Saturday with a 14-8 loss to the Homer Tsunami.
In Friday’s pool play, Kodiak fell to the Firecrackers 16-0 and North Star 15-9.
“We weren’t fortunate enough to get a win, but the experience that was gained is priceless,” Bolen said. “We had a younger team, and I couldn’t be more pleased with how well they performed.”
Five of the nine players who traveled from Kodiak were either rising freshman or sophomores and had never played an out of a high school game. The other four — Leslie Spear, Ava Pruitt, Aurora Berg and Cyana Medrano — were part of the high school team’s third-place finish at the 2018 Division II state tournament.
Avery Kreisher, who moved to Juneau after the 2018 school year, joined her old teammates for the tournament. Bolen kept that a secret until Friday.
“I was already at the field early and put her in uniform. When the girls showed up and got out of the van and saw Avery wearing the Island Warriors uniform, it was like pandemonium,” he said.
Kreischer pitched a complete game against North Star, scored three runs and hit a triple.
Spear went 3 for 3 with two doubles, while Berg was 2 for 3 with a double.
Shanoah Spear, Niana Llamos and Alison Narog each collected two singles.
Dyllan Borer, a catcher from Ketchikan, also played with the Island Warriors during the three-day tournament that featured seven teams from all regions of the state.
“We were out-gunned by a couple of teams there, but we let a few games slip away from us on errors,” Bolen said.
This was the first Kodiak sports team to travel to the mainland since the Kodiak Hockey League’s 18U season ended on March 15 at the state tournament.
Bolen created the Island Warriors program — there is also a 14U team — in June after the high school season didn’t pan out.
“It was great to be with these girls and start something new in Kodiak,” he said.
NORTH STAR 15, KODIAK 9
Kodiak’s pitching staff issued 10 consecutive walks to begin the game, which helped North Star grab a 12-3 after the first inning.
Kodiak closed to within three with a six-run second but didn’t get closer during the three-inning game.
Anastasia Solomon was 2 for 3 with a double and a run scored for the Island Warriors, while Borer laced a pair of triples.
Kreisher and Leslie Spear each added doubles, while Shanoah Spear, Medrano and Llamos each contributed singles.
FIRE CRACKERS 16,
The Fire Crackers used a 10-run third inning to defeat Kodiak in four-innings.
Berg tripled in the first inning for Kodiak’s only hit.
TSUNAMI 14, KODIAK 8
Despite getting home runs from Leslie Spear and Narog, Kodiak fell to the Homer-based club in five innings.
Leslie Spear slugged a three-run homer to stake Kodiak to an early first-inning lead.
Homer answered with five in the first and four in the second to take control of the contest.
Narog hit a solo home run in the fourth inning.
Borer went 3 for 3 with a double, while Solomon went 2 for 3 with a double.
Kreisher added a triple and Ashlyn Bolen a double. Berg had a single.