By Ray Hamill — The Eureka Loggers have put themselves in prime position to challenge for a third consecutive Big 5 championship next week after taking the opening game of a key series against Arcata on Thursday.
The two teams will meet again in a doubleheader Saturday at Eureka High, where a split will set up a winner-takes-all series between Eureka and McKinleyville next week.
With Thursday’s 3-0 win at the Arcata ball Park, the Loggers remain unbeaten in league play, improving to 7-0.
McKinleyville, which has a bye this week, is 8-1 in league play, while Arcata is now 7-3.
The Tigers will need to sweep on Saturday to have any chance of claiming a share of the title.
If they do, and Eureka takes two of three from Mack next week, then there would be a three-way tie for the league crown.
If the Loggers sweep on Saturday, meanwhile, they would go into next week’s big series with a record of 9-0 and in need just one win to claim at least a share of the title.
They would still, however, need to win twice to claim it outright.
For Saturday’s big doubleheader, Arcata will start Asher Meadows and Jaden Gorge on the mound.
Eureka will counter with Brady Munson and Kalebh Hill, providing Munson shows no ill-effects from a slight quad injury he picked up in Thursday’s game.
Reigning Big 5 MVP David Vagle was dominant on the mound in Thursday’s win and has been the Loggers’ most impressive pitcher this spring.
Vagle is 4-1 in five appearances (four starts) and came into Thursday’s shutout with an ERA of 0.97.
Hill and Munson have also seen plenty of time on the mound.
Hill is 3-1 with an ERA of 1.88, while Munson is 2-0 with an ERA of 3.13.
Sophomore Hayden Bode also has been impressive for the Loggers, mostly out of the bullpen, and has a team-leading ERA of 0.68 in five appearances.
Another sophomore, infielder Keenan Morris, has been the team’s most consistent threat at the plate with a .351 average, while freshman Jackson Giacone has been very impressive in limited appearances.
Giacone, who has appeared in nine games, is batting over .500 and added two more hits on Thursday, including a double.
First pitch in Saturday’s opener is set for 11 a.m.
Next week’s three-game series will open at McKinleyville High on Wednesday, with the Loggers again having home-field advantage for the final doubleheader on the following Saturday.