Panthers win another close one against rivals

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Photos by Ray Hamill/ – McKinleyville pitcher Cameron Saso

By Ray Hamill — McKinleyville and Arcata faced off for the fourth time this season at the Arcata Ball Park on Thursday, and you get the feeling they may not be done yet.

The two arch rivals and close neighbors are the Nos. 1 and 2 Division-IV teams in the North Coast Section this season, and another meeting in the section playoffs might yet be on the cards.

Local fans can only hope so.

In Thursday’s Charles Lakin H-DNL Tournament, the two clubs played out yet another enthralling game, with just one run separating the two.

But once again it was McKinleyville that found a way to win a tight game, edging out the Tigers 2-1 for their third win over them this season, to advance to Friday’s tournament championship.

“That’s three of four times it’s been a battle with those guys,” Mack head coach Scott St. John said. 

In many ways, it was a typical win for the Panthers, who have shown a maturity this season in the way they have been able to pull out close games.

“Just another McKinleyville game,” St. John said with a smile. “Most of our games are close games. We don’t panic in situations and find a way to get it done.”

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Both starting pitchers were in control throughout, with Cameron Saso tossing all seven innings for the win, allowing just three hits and striking out three.

Arcata’s Merick Sears was almost as dominant, allowing two earned runs on six hits.

Mack broke the deadlock in the bottom of the third inning, but the Tigers answered right back, scoring in the top of the fourth.

Jaden Gorge was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, before advancing when Mason Trapkus was hit by a pitch as well, and then scoring on a Mason Nichols single.


The Panthers, however, got the decisive run in the bottom of the sixth, when Lance Lally singled to score Dustin Ireland, who had singled to lead off the inning.

Freshman Alex Gorge finished 2-for-3 for Arcata, which dropped to 20-6.

McKinleyville, which improved to 20-2, got contributions from throughout the lineup, with additional hits from Isaac Puzz, Regan Wolfe, Cameron Saso and Chase Fisher.

Saso also had an RBI.

The Panthers will play Eureka for the tournament championship on Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Arcata Ball Park.

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