By Ray Hamill — Only one team now stands between McKinleyville and a Big 5 title.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Panthers continued to roll over their conference opponents, sweeping a doubleheader at home to Fortuna by scores of 13-2 and 15-5, and securing the regular-season sweep of the Huskies.
It was the Panthers’ third sweep in three league series as they improved to 9-0 in the Big 5 and 14-0 overall, with only Eureka now standing in the way of their first league crown in eight years.
The Loggers have played just one league game so far and will play a three-games series with the league leaders early next month.
Through their opening nine Big 5 games, the Panthers have outscored their opponents by an average of almost eight runs a game, winning by nine or more runs in five of them.
Minton in the circle
On Tuesday, they changed things up a little with junior Mikayla Minton starting both games in the circle in place of standout senior McKenzie Gonsalves.
Minton got plenty of help from her offense with 22 McKinleyville hits on the day, including 15 in the nightcap.
McKenna Turner and Jaycee Morais led the way with multiple hits in each game.
Turner was 3-for-5 in the second game with a home run, after going 3-for-3 with a triple in the opener.
Morais had two hits, including a double, in each game, with three RBIs in the nightcap.
Also in the second game, Ashley Ballew was 3-for-5 with three RBIs, including another triple for the sophomore outfielder, while Olivia Alves added a home run, her third against Fortuna in the Big 5, finishing 2-for-2 with two RBIs.
The Huskies struck first, taking a one-run lead in the top of the first, before the home team answered with four in the bottom half of the inning.
Trailing 5-2 in the third, the Huskies scored three times to tie the score and make things interesting.
An experienced Mack lineup, however, answered immediately once again, this time with five runs in the bottom half of the inning to take control of the game.
Lexi White, Allison McCarty, Jada Bailey, Lily Thiesfeld and Allie Egbert each also had a hit for the Panthers in the second game.
Morgan Murray led the Huskies at the plate, finishing 2-for-3 with an RBI, while Lexi Roby and Paige Johnson each also had a hit and Kelsie Hall drove in a run.
In game one, the Panthers took control with eight runs in the bottom of the second.
Sophomore Renee Metz had a big game at the plate for the visitors, finishing 3-for-3, while Roby and Lorelei Martinez each had a hit.
A total of 13 errors on the day, including 10 in the second game, didn’t help matters for the Huskies.
The Panthers didn’t fare much better with nine errors, including seven in the nightcap.
Olivia Sanchez took the loss in the circle in game one and Jackie Duncan in game two.
The Huskies dropped to 3-10 overall and 0-6 in the Big 5 and will look to get back on track at Eureka on Wednesday afternoon.
The Panthers will take a break from league play to compete at the Wolfpack Invitational on Friday and Saturday.