By Ray Hamill — Eureka senior Brady Munson pitched a no-hitter in game one of a doubleheader at home to Arcata on Saturday, as the Loggers set up an all-or-nothing series against McKinleyville next week to decide the Big 5.
Munson dominated on the mound on a big day for the pitchers, as Eureka took the opener 1-0, before Arcata battled back to take the nightcap 2-0.
The split sees Eureka improve to 8-1 in league play, giving the Loggers the same record as McKinleyville, with the two teams set to close out the Big 5 in a three-game series next week.
Whoever wins that series will be crowned league champions, and Saturday’s split guarantees there will be no co-champions in 2019.
“Our guys are excited for it,” said Eureka head coach Eric Giacone. “It will be three great games, just like this week.”
It has certainly been an entertaining Big 5, with little or nothing to separate the top three teams.
McKinleyville’s only loss in 18 games all season was against Arcata, while the Tigers’ four losses have all come against Mack and Eureka.
Eureka, meanwhile, is 12-4 and had won nine straight before falling in the second game on Saturday.
“Coming into this week, we knew we had to go 2-1 the next two weeks, and to be able to get two of three from Arcata, that works for us,” Giacone said.
Munson dominated once again, following a two-hit performance at Del Norte last week with a complete-game no-hitter against the Tigers.
“He was great,” Giacone said of the senior standout. “He controlled the strike zone and kept them off balance.”
All four starters on the day went the distance, allowing just 14 hits combined over the two games, following on from two strong pitching performances in Thursday’s series opener.
“I thought this was an outstanding series between these two teams,” Arcata head coach Troy Ghisetti said. “Both teams had outstanding pitching.”
Asher Meadows tossed seven strong innings but took the loss in the opener, allowing just the one run on five hits, while teammate Jaden Gorge was just as impressive in the nightcap, giving up five hits in the shutout win.
“I thought Meadows threw a very good game and got no run support,” Ghisetti said. “And Jaden did what Jaden does.”
Kalebh Hill was just as impressive for the Loggers in game two, despite taking the loss, pitching seven strong innings while allowing four hits.
The Eureka senior struck out six and walked two.
The Eureka pitchers got plenty of help from an impressive outfield, with Drew Nylander, Zac Anderson and Tyce Mullins starting in game two.
“Eureka didn’t give us anything in the outfield,” Ghisetti said. “They track down everything out there. And they’re pretty strong in the infield as well.”
Anderson was also instrumental at the plate, finishing with three of his team’s 10 hits on the day, including going 2-for-2 in the opener and driving in the only run of the game.
Defensively, Anderson made a spectacular catch in center field in the top of the fifth inning in game two.
David Vagle also had a big day at the plate, finishing 2-for-3 with a double in the second game, while Hill, Mullins, Keenan Morris, Isaak Gutierrez and Jackson Giacone each also had a hit for Eureka.
After getting shut down in game one, the young guns stepped up for Arcata at the plate in game two, with freshmen Vincent Agliolo and Porter Price and sophomore Xavier Finegan each getting a hit, along with Gorge.
Arcata closes out the Big 5 at 8-4, and is now 19-4 overall.
The Tigers are the No. 2 ranked Division-IV team in the North Coast Section, according to MaxPreps, trailing only Big 5 rivals McKinleyville.
The big series between the Loggers and Panthers gets under way with a single game at McKinleyville on Wednesday, followed by a doubleheader at Eureka on Saturday.