Homer Alaska - Sports

Story last updated at 3:39 PM on Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Batter up: Mariner softball, baseball teams melding as snow melts



By Angelina Skowronski
For the Homer News

As the snow slowly but surely melts, the Mariner softball and baseball teams are preparing for their first games of the season. Currently, the Lady Mariners are set to play May 1; the boys' first game is slated for April 28. Here's how the teams are shaping up.

Softball

The Lady Mariners' softball team is six short from last year's graduating seniors, but new positions are being filled quickly by last year's Kenai Peninsula JV tournament champions.

"We are three weeks into the practice season and have yet to have everyone together with spring break, vacations and the musical," said Head Coach Bill Bell in March.

Despite unpredictable spring schedules, the varsity team is coming together slowly.

"The infield is returning with only the second base position remaining to be filled. Outfield will have Katie Kirsis returning and probably moving into the center field position," said Bell.

A few new freshmen will be taking some lead roles, including Pam Jantzi, Maggie LaRue and Larsen Fellows.

"Each class is evenly represented which bodes well for the future," said Bell.

Pitching will be from Hannah LaRue and Katie McNary, with strong support from some of the JV players as well.

"The big worry is the fields. Usually we can get outside onto at least wet grass by mid-April and I do not know how that is going to happen," said Bell. "I am in the process of trying to find another field for our home field."

Fingers crossed on the snow melt, Homer will host the first game of the season May 1 against Skyview.

"Lots of home games this year. With the trip to Kodiak at the end of the season probably being pivotal for conference and state seeding," said Bell. "I'm looking forward to the season and for those fields to show up."

Baseball

There is new change for Mariners baseball this year: a new pitching coach and a new computer program.

Mark Putney, a former Kodiak pitcher went on to pitch at George Fox University in Oregon. Putney returns to Alaska to help coach Mariner baseball.

"Mark is a great example to the kids and bridges the generation gap between myself and players," said Head Coach Lary Kuhns. "Bringing in a guy of Mark's caliber to the team will make great impacts."

In addition, the baseball team pitched in to help itself. Last year the team was able to raise enough money to invest in the RightView Pro software. This system is used by more than 100 college and major league teams to fine tune players' mechanics, said Kuhns. The players are recorded when hitting or pitching, the video is uploaded to the program, and from there coaches and players can compare their techniques to that of professional players.

"What is great is that this program is good until the computer breaks down. It's an investment in the team, and we are doing our best to improve the team," said Kuhns.

RightView Pro, Putney's guidance and a solid underclass is the bright future for Homer baseball.

"This year's team is a lot deeper. We have 22 players with a strong freshman and sophomore class. By developing the younger kids we'll be getting back to state respectably," said Kuhns.

Freshman Nahoa Jette is a focused ballplayer with a work ethic second to none, according to Kuhns. Sophomore Zack Hanning is an up and coming pitcher with experience. And freshman Owen Delehanty, a left-handed hitter, will have an impact on the varsity team, said Kuhns.

Senior, catcher and unspoken team leader Dylan Morrison will be a main player to watch out for as well as senior Mick Wells, a switch hitter. Juniors Tommy Bowe and Brian Rowe also are core athletes with strong hitting ability.

The first game of the season is scheduled for April 28 in Homer against Colony. The hope, as with each spring sport this year, is that the field will be ready for play. The conference game against Colony last year was the first conference win for the Mariners in two years.

Kuhns said, "I'm hoping for the best this year, we have an enthusiastic group of men."

Angelina Skowronski is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.

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