Last weekend’s statewide Kenai Firecracker Tournament offered great competition and great weather to the 27 competing teams from Kenai, Anchorage, Wasilla and Homer. Spenard Builders Supply and Kharacters, which is co-sponsored by Cups, represented Homer in the D bracket and Beluga Lake Lodge competed in the C bracket.
Out of 16 D-bracket teams, SBS took first in a dramatic revenge against the Anchorage team Yamato, and Kharacters followed close behind in third. Beluga Lake Lodge placed sixth out of the 11 C-bracket teams.
SBS won both their round-robin games on Saturday, and went on to beat Pitchers Be Crazy 21-4. On Sunday SBS started their full day of games beating Enderson’s Concrete 4-2, but lost by one run against Yamato, which ended with a final score of 13-8.
Amy Drake, who also played on the SBS team last year with her husband, said Yamato “was the team to beat.”
The loss kicked SBS into the losers bracket and they played Kharacters for a shot to compete against Yamato again in the championship round.
After a 9-5 win against Kharacters, which put Kharacters in third place, SBS had to beat Yamato twice to be crowned the champions.
“We knew we had to beat them,” said Drake. “I don’t know how to explain it, but we really came together as a team and played our best game ever.”
During that game against Yamato, Drake said she wasn’t hitting well until her teammate Josh Fraley, gave her a pointer to watch the ball as she hit it.
“After that I just kept hitting them really well, one went right above the left center’s head, “ she said. “The game turned around from there.”
SBS won 10-4, and played a second game right after which determined the champions.
Homer fans and the athletes filled the bleachers, and the tired SBS team competed in their eighth and final game of the tournament. A welcomed rain came down on the SBS and Yamato players after two days of sunshine.
SBS finished off the game, which was tied until the fifth inning, with a win of 14-2.
This is Drake and her husband’s second year playing for SBS. She said the finish put her on “cloud nine”.
“It was overall an amazing experience,” she said. “We went up there just to have fun, it was one of the best weekends ever.”
After losing 9-7 against Enderson’s Concrete on Saturday, Kharacters was bumped into the loser bracket.
On Sunday Kharacters plowed along with a strong winning streak, beating Pepsi 24-7, Last Frontier with a 10-0 shutout, and then Enderson’s Concrete 10-3. Kharacters were stopped at third after their loss to SBS.
“We got farther than they had anticipated,” said Kharacters Coach Mikey Wertz, who also said it was the first time the Kharacters team has trophied.
“We’re really good friends, and it’s always really fun to play against them” said Wertz of the competition against SBS. “It’s really fun to have two Homer teams place when there were teams from Anchorage, Wasilla and everywhere. We represented Homer really well, I thought.”
He said he tipped his hat to Sarah Sullivan, recruited from the Growlers, for her strong contribution to the team.
The Kenai Softball Association hosted the tournament and President Tom Brown applauded Kharacters for their fight through the loser bracket to win third.
“We always enjoy having Homer teams down, they always put together tough teams,” he said.
Amy Jones, player for Beluga Lake Lodge, said there were many close games.
“It was all competitive play this year, there was no blow out-scores,” said Jones. “They did a great job structuring it.”
Both Jones and Drake said negative taunting from the field and crowd came with the more aggressive teams.
“There are a few teams from up north that are pretty hot and heavy and into their trash-talking, but most of the peninsula teams were laid back,” said Jones.
“It’s really like high school petty talk,” said Drake of other team’s vocal provoking. “You would think at this level it would be different. I don’t know if it was the beer in them or what.”
Jones said the organization of a “peninsula-only tournament” was proposed by teams from Kenai.
“We enjoyed playing them and many of us would like to see a locals-only tournament,” said Jones. “It wouldn’t take a whole lot of work and wouldn’t be that challenging. We encourage anyone with any excitement about helping with administration to contact us.”
The annual Homer City Tournament is scheduled for Aug. 9 and 10.
Shannon Reid is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.
Homer Softball Association standings (as of 7/3)
1. Growlers (12,0)
2. BLL (11,3)
3. SBS (9,3)
4. Cups/Kharacters (8,4)
5. Downeast (6,8)
6. Alibi (3,10)
7. Wraptors (2,11)
8. Spartans (1,11)