By Ray Hamill — 2019 will be a tough act to follow for H-DNL softball, and in particular the McKinleyville Panthers.
On Tuesday evening, the Mack girls completed an historic first-ever treble in the sport, adding the North Coast Section Division-IV championship to the Big 5 and H-DNL tournament titles they clinched earlier this month.
It was the school’s second ever NCS championship in softball and the first since 1988.
And the Panthers sealed the deal in emphatic fashion, defeating St. Patrick-St. Vincent 11-1 in six innings in the championship game at McKinleyville High.
It marks the first time any H-DNL school has won a conference title, a league tournament and an NCS crown in softball in the same season, and was just the third section title ever in the sport for the Big 5. (Del Norte also won one in 2008.)
“I don’t know that it’s fully set in yet,” McKinleyville head coach Shanna McCracken said. “But it feels amazing. I’m very proud of this group.”
The victory also gives the H-DNL a hat trick of section titles in softball this spring for the first time ever.
In addition to the Panthers’ big win, both Hoopa and South Fork also won a championship over the weekend, landing a remarkable three of the six NCS crowns in Humboldt County.
That’s particularly impressive for a league that makes up barely five percent of the entire section.
Tuesday’s championship also completes a trio of preseason goals for the Panthers, who barely missed out on winning both the Big 5 and H-DNL tournament a year ago and came into this season with eyes on winning all three titles this spring.
A veteran and senior-heavy team didn’t disappoint.
They played with a composure and determination all season, comfortably taking care of business at every step of the journey and rarely looking in danger, with several players stepping up to the challenge.
After a hard-fought win over Cardinal Newman in Friday’s semifinal, the championship game against the Bruins was a far easier affair.
The home team took control with three runs in the second inning and led throughout, adding runs in each inning after that on the way to ending the game prematurely when Theresia Dickey crossed home plate on a Jada Bailey hit in the sixth.
Lots more on this game and the wild post-game celebrations to come …