Last summer, Hunter Williams and Malakai Olson helped the Post 20 Kenai Twins finish third at the American Legion Baseball state tournament.
Facing Kenai — and some of the players they were teammates with during the summer — on a sunny Thursday evening at Baranof Field, Williams and Olson were the centerpieces of Kodiak’s 8-2 Southcentral Conference baseball victory.
Williams did damage with two mighty swings, while Olson dazzled with his right arm.
Together they provided Kodiak with its first victory of the season. The Bears improved to 1-3 overall, 1-0 in conference.
“We are trying to jump out in the conference. We have been outside a lot more than them — they haven’t even been outside yet,” Kodiak veteran skipper Jason Fox said.
The right-handed Williams had a day at the dish, powering two home runs, driving in three and accounting for half of Kodiak’s six hits.
His two-run blast in the first inning cleared the fence in left-center, landed on the roof of a car and rolled onto the street.
After a third-inning single and a deep fly out to center, Williams led off the sixth by tagging a solo shot to left.
Williams is the first Kodiak player in recent memory to belt two homers in a game. Impressive stuff.
“He is a great hitter, and when he doesn’t overswing, it is hard to get him out. He crushes the ball,” Fox said. “When he is locked in, he gets up there and is ready to rip it.”
Olson was brilliant on the bump. The soft-tossing junior controlled the strike zone and struck out a career-high 10 — eight looking — in six innings.
He fanned the side in the first and the third innings.
“He is getting some confidence up there and throwing all of his pitches for strikes,” Fox said.
Olson lost his no-hit bid in the third inning, while only one of the three hits he allowed left the infield — and that runner was erased at second on a tremendous throw from center fielder Alex Holland, who raced to his left to cut the ball off before it reached the wall.
“He is definitely one of the on-field leaders, athletically,” Fox said. “That is the way he plays baseball. He will hustle, hustle and hustle and he knows where to throw afterwards.”
That wasn’t Kodiak’s only defensive gem of the night.
Following a single and a walk to begin the third, Kenai attempted to bunt the runners over. Jon Flerchinger spoiled that plan.
Kodiak’s big third baseman plucked the bouncing ball out of the air with his barehand, turned and fired a dart to Williams, who raced over to cover third from his shortstop position to get the lead runner out.
Olson then navigated out of the inning by inducing an infield fly and a picking up a backward K.
“That was a great defensive play,” Fox said. “We had a totally different bunt defense on, but they just intuitively did it.”
Kodiak’s freshmen showed up big in the fifth.
With the bases loaded, Jeremy Mahle lofted a deep fly to center that scored Tyler Christiansen, who led off with an infield single.
Landen Alford followed with a line-drive double to center that plated Flerchinger and Reese Arnett to put Kodiak up 7-0.
Kenai avoided the shutout by scoring solo runs in the sixth and seventh, courtesy of three late Kodiak errors.
Kodiak and Kenai close out the two-game series at noon Friday.
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