By Ray Hamill — Arcata senior Makayla Bernald remembers clearly the first time she faced a high-powered offense in high school softball.
Bernald was a freshman at the time, in the spring of 2017, and she recalls how she frustrated a veteran Fortuna Huskies team that included players like Hailey Dolcini and Jenna Christensen, and one that would go on to win a fourth consecutive Big 5 championship that year.
“I remember as a freshman pitching against Fortuna. I kept the score under eight, which was pretty good for a freshman going against that Fortuna team,” Bernald said this week, before adding with a chuckle, “the next time I played them (they) hit a line drive at me.”
Bernald showed her toughness that day by bouncing right back up and continuing to pitch, and that toughness is something she will now bring to the collegiate level after recently verbally committing to play at Mendocino College after graduation this year.
Bernald is the latest in a long line of local prep softball players who are taking their talents to the next level, following in the footsteps of players like Dolcini and Christensen, the latter of whom is an ace pitcher for Division-I Fresno State.
And Bernald, a future nursing major, would like to do exactly that.
“I see myself playing at a four-year school,” she said.
The Tigers’ standout, who has grown in stature in each of her three seasons with the program, choose Mendo after meeting with the coach and players, and believes it’s a perfect fit.
“I went down to check out the campus and I really liked the atmosphere,” Bernald said. “I met (head coach Doug Wingler) and the team and all the other coaches, and they were really nice, and it was good fit. I connected with them.”
For now, however, Bernald’s focus is on the upcoming season and finishing out her high school career with a bang.
The Tigers enjoyed a breakthrough season a year ago, making the playoffs for the first time in several years.
This year, most of their starters will be back, including their ace in the circle, and Bernald is feeling optimistic.
“I expect we will have a really good season,” she said. “I like how we are more intense together and how we work together, and how loud we are.
“And when we do that, our competitive drive really increases as a team.”
The Tigers have been working hard in the offseason, no one more so than Bernald, who also pitches in the summer for the Mad River MIST and has been working closely with local pitching coach Kelly Helms for several years.
“I’ve been pitching five days a week, and hopefully when softball season comes around I’ll be pitching every day,” said the senior standout, who also played tennis in the fall for the league champion Arcata girls team.
Bernald, who has been playing softball since she was eight, says the time she has spent with Helms, as well as playing for the MIST and at Arcata High, has helped her improve her game to the extent she can now take her talents to the next level.
And it’s something, she says, she’ll always remember.
“Not only did I connect with the players in Arcata, but also throughout the community and with the Mad River MIST,” Bernald said. “I connected with all the teams I played with.”