By Ray Hamill — The Eureka Loggers will try to keep their fast start to the new softball season going when they host South Fork on Wednesday afternoon.
This year’s Eureka team will be one of the favorites in both the Big 5 and Charlie Lakin H-DNL tournament, with a core group of players as talented and experienced as any in area.
Junior Kira Morris got the new campaign off to an outstanding start over the weekend, striking out 17 in the season opener against a tough Red Bluff team on Friday night.
The Loggers won 2-1, with Morris allowing just one hit in eight innings.
“Kira was definitely dialed in,” new head coach Robin Johnson said. “Our pitching was good this weekend.”
Morris, who also got the win in the circle in a 23-2 victory at Shasta on Saturday, will be the team’s ace this spring, and if she continues to perform at the level she has shown early in the season, the Loggers will be tough to stop.
And she’s not the only standout on a talented roster.
Senior McKenna Beach also got the new season off to a flying start on the weekend road trip and hit two home runs in the 23-2 win.
“Those were shots,” said Johnson, who praised her players for capitalizing on good pitches against Shasta. “I’m surprised they pitched to her after that.”
Both Morris and Beach have developed their games while playing travel ball during the offseason, with Beach playing for Power Fastpitch 18 Gold out of Petaluma/Concord and Morris pitching for Universal Fastpitch 18 Gold out of Sacramento.
Beach, who is the team’s starting catcher, is one of just two seniors on the team, along with the multi-talented Payton Goodman.
Two other juniors are also expected to play key roles for the Big 5 favorites.
Shortstop Maeghan Hampton and third baseman Claire Maples both impressed at the plate and running the bases over the weekend.
In addition to Morris, sophomore Kaitlin Giacone will see some time in the circle and gives the team some quality depth.
Giacone posted her first win of the season in a 19-0 win at Shasta in game two on Saturday, striking out four in three hitless innings, while also finishing with three hits.
“Our junior class is huge and a lot of them play basketball and soccer together and they have a great bond,” Johnson said. “And there’s a lot of talent.”
The Loggers were undefeated last spring and are considered by many to be the team to beat in the Big 5 again this year, although the McKinleyville girls should also challenge for the league title, while Fortuna has the pitching to cause anyone problems.
This year, the Loggers will also play home and away games against the Hoopa Warriors, who were also undefeated last spring and are expected to be among the best teams once again on the North Coast in 2022.
Those two teams play at Eureka on April 5 and at Hoopa on April 20.
“We’re looking forward to those games,” Johnson said.
As for her team’s goals, this season?
“I hope to win and have fun,” the coach said, adding that they definitely want to win the Big 5.
The Loggers will play their home games at Washington Elementary this season, with Wednesday’s home opener set for 4 p.m.
Johnson, who takes over from Sarah Fox, was an assistant with the team a year ago while coaching the JVs, and is joined in the dugout this year by assistants Jenna Christensen and Ashley Stockwell.