By Ray Hamill — Arcata and McKinleyvile remained on collision course for a huge three-game series this coming week, with each completing a Big 5 doubleheader sweep on Saturday.
Something will have to give when the two unbeaten arch rivals meet on Wednesday with the league lead on the line.
On Saturday, the Tigers took care of business against Fortuna, winning 9-1 and 14-4, while the Panthers defeated Del Norte in Crescent City, 13-2 and 13-9.
“We put up some runs, but they gave us a battle in the second game,” said McKinleyville head coach Scott St. John, whose team trailed going into the fifth inning.
With the two wins, the Panthers improved to 10-0 on the season and 3-0 in the Big 5, while Arcata upped its mark to 13-0 and 3-0.
Fortuna 1, Arcata 9
Fortuna 4, Arcata 14
In 13 games this season, the Arcata Tigers have outscored their opponents by more than 100 runs (125-23), with only one team managing more than five runs against them in a single game.
They kept rolling on Saturday with a pair of lopsided wins, outscoring the Huskies 32-6 in three games this week.
The sweep sets up an intriguing showdown with arch rivals McKinleyville this coming week in a series that will go a long way toward deciding this year’s league title.
The Tigers quickly set the tone on Saturday, scoring runs in each of the first four innings of the opener to take a 9-0 lead.
But the story of the game was the pitching, with the Tigers holding the Huskies to just two hits.
Asher Meadows tossed five-plus strong innings before Ben Narwold came in to close out the game.
“Meadows was good,” Fortuna head coach Andy Olsen said. “He kept us off balance.”
It was more of the same in the nightcap, with Arcata scoring three times in the first and stretching the lead to seven going into the third inning.
Jaden Gorge got the win on the mound and rarely looked in danger.
“Meadows and Gorge had very good control,” Olsen said. “And they were very efficient with their pitch count, and Narwold, out of the pen, he was good too.”
At the plate, Arcata’s Merick Sears hit a two-run double to make it 7-0 in the bottom of the second.
Xavier Finegan hit an RBI double to make it 8-0 in the third, before scoring himself moments later on a wild pitch.
The Huskies rallied in the top of the sixth, scoring four runs and getting some clutch hits.
Daeden Taylor and Caleb Crawley led off the inning with back-to-back singles, before Josh Adkins got his team on the board with an RBI single.
The momentum continued when Gabe Sandberg followed that with an RBI double, before a sacrifice fly by Garrett Aust.
Another RBI single by Jason Besaneney made it 9-4.
The Tigers, however, answered in the bottom of the sixth with five runs to end the game early.
“I was glad we were able to string some hits together,” Olsen said. “It was good to finally get some clutch hits, but we still had quite a few mental errors and made some physical errors.”
Sheaden Kadle finished 2-for-2 for Fortuna, which dropped to 2-5 overall and 0-3 in the Big 5, while Dylan McNeil also had a double.
The Huskies have a bye from league play this coming week and will play South Fork on Tuesday and St. Bernard’s on Thursday.
“We’re going to keep battling,” Olsen said.
McKinleyville 13, Del Norte 2
McKinleyville 13, Del Norte 9
The Panthers rose to the challenge with a late rally in game two, coming from behind to sweep at Del Norte and keeping the pressure on their Big 5 rivals.
It showed not only that the Mack boys are legitimate league contenders this season, but also how much they’ve grown as a team since last season.
“We answered back,” St. John said. “We answered back when they when they jumped out on us, and that’s the kind of game last year we had trouble with.
“They answered the bell and it seems like we’re doing that a little more this year.”
Cameron Saso and Jack Patton both pitched well in the opener, with Saso getting the start and Patton tossing the final three innings to seal the win.
“Jack Patton was outstanding,” the head coach said.
Corbin Eichin got the start in the nightcap, before giving way to Lance Lally, who came in to pitch the final four innings and got the win.
Chase Fisher had three big hits and three RBIs in the opener, while Mason Hooven led the way defensively for McKinleyville.
“He really stepped up in the second game at second base and made some good defensive plays,” the head coach said.
At the plate in game two, Saso finished 3-for-3 with two RBIs, while Eichin, Dustin Ireland and Regan Wolfe each had two hits.
Wolfe also drove home four runs.
After the sweep, St. John paid tribute to the Warriors, who lost three games to McKinleyville this week.
“Hat’s off to Del Norte, they battled,” St. John said.
With the losses, Del Norte drops to 3-6-1 on the season and 0-3 in the Big 5.