By Ray Hamill — Kyler Carr hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the eighth inning of game two to earn McKinleyville a share of the spoils in a key doubleheader against Arcata on Wednesday afternoon.
Carr broke a 1-1 deadlock by scoring Dustin Ireland, who had reached base on a two-out walk, as the Panthers pulled out a 2-1 win.
The Tigers dominated the opening game between these two heavyweights, winning 13-1 and handing the home team its first loss of the year.
The Panthers repaid that favor in the second game, handing the Tigers their first loss of the year and leaving both teams tied at 4-1 in the Big 5.
“In the first game we came out flat,” McKinleyville head coach Scott St. John said. “And hat’s off to them. In the first game they hit the ball.”
Junior pitcher Merick Sears struck out seven in 4.1 innings for the win in the opener, and got plenty of help from an Arcata offense that racked up 12 hits.
“The kid from Ferndale threw well,” St. John said of Sears with a wry smile.
Xavier Finegan, Damien Shelton, Jaden Gorge and Brian Ford each finished with two hits for Arcata, while Sears, Mason Trapkus, Vincent Agliolo and Mason Nichols each had a hit.
Game two was a much closer affair, with the Panthers striking first when Chase Fisher drove in Carr for the go-ahead run in the bottom of the second inning.
The Tigers answered immediately, however, with Alex Gorge driving home his brother Jaden Gorge to tie things up at 1-1 in the third.
That was it for the scoring until the bottom of the eighth, with McKinleyville’s Cameron Saso and Arcata’s Jaden Gorge each in control on the mound.
Both teams had their chances, but neither was able to get the breakthrough until Carr’s late heroics.
“We persevered,” St. John said. “And we got the hit when we needed it.”
McKinleyville almost re-took the lead in the bottom of the third, with two runners on and two outs, but Ireland was caught in a rundown between first and second before Corbin Eichin could score.
Nichols also got into scoring position for the Tigers in the top of the sixth after singling to reach base, but his teammates were unable to bring him home.
The bottom of the sixth inning featured a couple of controversial calls, including one at the plate when Ireland was called out sliding home on a Regan Wolfe double.
The Mack coaches claimed Arcata catcher Alex Gorge blocked the plate before the ball got there.
The inning ended on a spectacular catch by Jaden Gorge off a ball hit straight at him by Lance Lally.
The Tigers loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the seventh, but Lally came in to relieve Saso for McKinleyville and got his team out of the jam.
Lally got the win.
“We had our opportunities, we just didn’t succeed,” Arcata head coach Troy Ghisetti said of the second game.
The opening game was a different story for the Tigers.
“I thought we came out and did a very good job,” the coach said. “We executed well, and when we’re able to do that good things will happen for Arcata baseball.”
With the split, the Tigers are now 14-1 overall, while the Panthers are 11-1.
The two teams are scheduled to play a single game later this week, weather permitting.