By Ray Hamill — An ever-reliable senior leader and an up-and-coming sophomore were the difference makers for Eureka in a close game on Friday night, and the presence of both bodes well for the Loggers heading into next week’s North Coast Section playoffs.
One week after failing to win a third straight Big 5 title, the Loggers pulled out a fourth straight Charles Lakin H-DNL Tournament championship, edging out McKinleyville 6-4 in extra innings at the Arcata Ball Park.
And they can thank David Vagle and Hayden Bode for the roles they each played in the win.
Vagle, the reigning Big 5 MVP, was inspirational late in the game, lifting his teammates with a pair of big doubles, the second of which scored what would be the winning run.
The senior all-around star is closing out his high school career with a bang this season, and has been one of the team’s major contributors on the mound, at the plate and defensively at shortstop.
He is batting .279 with 12 RBIs, as well as posting a 5-1 record with an ERA of 1.34, and his presence next week will be pivotal for the Loggers in this year’s tough Division-III bracket, as they try to make up for some recent postseason disappointments.
And he’s not the only Eureka player who appears fired up for the postseason and playing their best ball of the spring.
Bode has been sensational for the Loggers out of the bullpen, and came into Friday’s game with a team-best ERA of 0.57 in limited action.
On Friday, he was outstanding again, shutting down a potent and veteran Mack offense with five shutout innings, allowing three hits and three walks and striking out five.
It’s not the first time Bode has impressed, and he could very well be the best relief pitcher in the Big 5 this season.
He has been almost as effective at the plate, batting .273 with 11 RBIs, second only to Vagle’s 12.
As a sophomore, Bode is one of a group of talented young players the Loggers have on hand this year, and a group that suggests they’ll be competing for Big 5 titles for the foreseeable future.
Along with the likes of freshman Jackson Giacone, who has taken the Big 5 by storm and is batting a team-best .366, the likes of Keenan Morris, Zac Anderson and Parker Rodgers give the program the cornerstone for continued success.
More immediately, however, a talented and deep senior class will be looking for a first career NCS playoff win when they host San Rafael on Tuesday.
The Loggers have bowed out of the NCS at the first hurdle in each of the past three years, including a 4-1 loss at home to St. Joseph Notre Dame a year ago, and have not won there since 2015.
On Saturday, they were given the No. 7 seed, a little lower than expected, although they still get an all-important home game.
Tuesday’s game is set for 5 p.m. at Bud Cloney Field.