By Ray Hamill — Eureka senior McKenna Beach is taking her talents to Cal Poly Humboldt, and one coach who knows her about as well as anyone believes she has exactly what it takes to succeed at the next level.
Beach signed her letter of intent to play softball for the Lumberjacks on Friday afternoon, in front of a gathering of family, friends, teammates and coaches at Eureka High.
And Loggers head coach Robin Johnson says her talent and work ethic will carry her a long way at the NCAA Division-II level.
“McKenna is one of the hardest working players on our team and it shows on the field,” said Johnson, who added “She will succeed at the college level with her desire to become better every day, her drive to keep pushing herself and her positive attitude to keep learning more.”
Beach, who is enjoying an outstanding spring for the Loggers, admits Humboldt wasn’t always on her radar and that she was planning on leaving the area for college, with a number of schools showing interest.
But with big changes this year at Cal Poly Humboldt, and the Lumberjacks offering her a scholarship, the opportunity was just too good to pass up.
“I had some more offers, but once I looked at the overall education and sports, Humboldt opened my eyes,” said Beach, who wants to major in kinesiology. “And I went to a practice with them and I really loved the team.”
The standout catcher has been honing her talents ever since she began throwing a ball at age 3, while trying to emulate older brother Isaac when he was playing Little League.
It began a life-long love of softball, and while the multi-talented Beach certainly has the skills to play basketball collegiately, she admits that softball has always been her favorite.
She also leaves behind an impressive resume of success at Eureka, and a legacy that has yet to be finalized.
Check out our video highlights of Friday’s letter signing …
The standout senior is one of the few players in school history to win two Dick Niclai tournament championships in basketball, and she also played a key role in ending an 18-year drought for an outright Big 5 basketball championship for the Eureka girls this year.
“She has a competitive fire for success and a dedicated work ethic, and she is a compassionate teammate,” Eureka basketball head coach Mike Harvey said after Beach was named Big 5 MVP in basketball this year.
She carried that momentum into the softball season and has been one of the key leaders on a team that is in contention for a Big 5 title.
“She is a leader on the field and off the field and an excellent example to other players,” Johnson said.
Beach is batting .545 for the 11-1 Loggers, second only to teammate Kira Morris, and she has team-highs in home runs (three) and doubles (seven), while also driving in 16 runs.
As for what she’ll remember from her time at Eureka?
“Everything,” she said with a smile. “All the sports teams. I loved all my coaches, I loved all my teammates. I couldn’t ask for better teammates. And the faculty and all the teachers.”
As for her role at Humboldt, Beach will likely continue to see time behind the plate, while also filling in as a utility player, and she’s just happy to get the opportunity.
“I’ll fill in wherever they need me,” she said.
That’s an approach that has earned her the respect of her teammates and coaches.
“She always has a positive attitude and never complains about anything,” Johnson added. “She puts in the extra work on her own time. She makes coaching fun and easy and it’s been a privilege watching her grow not only as a player but also as a young adult these last four years.”
Beach also has played a lot of travel ball, playing for the Power Fastpitch 18 Gold out of Petaluma/Concord last year and traveling a lot of miles to compete at tournaments all over the West Coast.
She is the second high profile local player to commit to Cal Poly Humboldt recently, following in the footsteps of Del Norte’s Jadence Clifton, who enjoyed a very impressive freshman season with the Jacks on the basketball court this past winter.
Johnson says she will miss the standout senior after this season, but is excited about her future.
“She is leaving behind some big shoes to fill and we will truly miss her next year,” the Eureka coach said. “But I’m very excited to watch her success at Humboldt.”