By Ray Hamill — This year’s College of the Redwoods baseball team features a large local presence, many of whom are expected to lead the charge for the Corsairs as they look to build on some recent momentum.
And judging by last weekend’s season-opening series at home to Mendocino, several of them already are.
The roster features 11 local standouts from seven different Humboldt-Del Norte League high schools.
Two returning sophomores, in particular, are expected to lead the way, South Fork’s Hakeem Sadon and Eureka’s Luis Pimentel.
Pimentel was one of the definite bright spots on the opening weekend, when the Corsairs dropped two of three to the Eagles at Bomber Field in Eureka, where they will play their home games in 2019.
The former Logger got the win in Friday night’s second game, pitching five strong scoreless innings, while striking out eight and giving up just two hits.
Del Norte freshman Lucas Hardy also had an immediate impact, relieving Pimentel and tossing a four-inning save.
“Lucas had a huge game for us,” CR head coach Brad Morgan said of the former Warrior who struck out six. “He held the lead for us, in what was his first college experience. It was a great outing.”
The coach also paid tribute to Pimentel.
“He was huge for us in our home opener, and we’re hoping he can continue going out there and getting quality outings for us,” Morgan said.
Sadon, meanwhile, had a big impact at the plate, with four hits and an RBI, and big things are expected from the hard-working sophomore, both on the mound and at the plate.
“He’s a two way guy,” Morgan said. He’s a major contributor on the squad.”
Freshman Gannon Cyphers perhaps had the biggest impact of all on opening weekend, especially at the plate, where the former Eureka standout finished 6-for-12 with three RBIs.
“It’s nice that we have a lot of freshmen that will help push the sophomores, and we’ve got some good sophomore leaders,” Morgan said.
Overall, Morgan felt the opening weekend was not reflective of what this year’s team is capable of, and that the large contingent of freshmen will grow as the season progresses.
Last season, the Corsairs went 16-24 overall (9-16 in conference), the most wins by the program in more than a decade, and in his fourth year in charge of the program, Morgan believes they are headed in the right direction.
“We’re just trying to continue that climb. To get more and more wins each year,” he said. “It’s going to be challenging, but I feel we have the right guys. The first weekend doesn’t show how good our team is. We’ve got a lot of freshmen and a lot of inexperience.”
This weekend, the Corsairs travel to Salinas to play Hartnell in a three-game series, with the games yet to be finalized due to weather.
Another local sophomore, former Fortuna standout Garrett Johnson, is also expected to have a big season, and got his campaign off to an impressive start, going 4-for-9 with an RBI on the opening weekend.
Joining him on the Corsairs this season is another former Husky, freshman JB Lewis, who played his senior high school campaign with a broken wrist in 2018 and has just returned to full fitness after the coach originally expected him to red shirt.
“It definitely helps our infield,” Morgan said of Lewis’ early return. “It’s good for infield competition.
“The kid’s a workhorse. He’ll be ready to go.”
A pair of former St. Bernard’s standouts — Logan Thrap and Colton Stokesberry — are also expected to contribute this season, as is Hoopa Valley’s Andrew Stephens.
McKinleyville sophomore David Thomson and Eureka freshman Jared Crassweller round out the local contingent and are also expected to see plenty of game time.
Also impressing last weekend, freshman Charles Morgan finished with three hits and a pair walks, while sophomore Robert Rodrigues was 2-for-7 with an RBI.
James Garcia and Jackson Massey each also had a double.
Morgan also utilized 12 different pitchers over the 25 innings.