By Ray Hamill — One of the best rivalries in local sports lived up to the billing on Friday afternoon, as McKinleyville edged Arcata 4-3 in a Big 5 softball showdown at Mack High.
The Panthers led 4-1 going into the seventh, but the visitors rallied to make things interesting and pulled within one run before the Panthers prevailed.
Senior pitcher Raina Ausburn was instrumental in the victory, as she held a young Arcata offense in check for much of the game.
“I thought our defense played well enough to win, and Morgan (Ford) pitched well enough to win,” Arcata head coach Steve Sarchett said. “At the end of the day our inability to make adjustments is what cost us, but McKinleyville’s a good club.”
Junior second baseman Camryn Pinard also was a difference maker for the home team and she continues to be one of the toughest outs in the Big 5.
Pinard doubled to drive in a run in the first inning and would score herself moments later, before hitting a solo home run later in the game.
The Tigers, however, refused to go down easily and never let the game get away from them to give themselves a chance late.
Ford pitched six strong innings for the visitors, while freshman Jenna Renteria had a crucial RBI hit in the seventh to help key the late rally.
“This team has a lot to learn, but they have the right mindset,” Sarchett said of his young squad, which features just one senior and had only two juniors on hand Friday. “They’re like sponges.”
With the win, the Panthers improved to 4-3 in the Big 5 and 9-4 overall, while the Tigers dropped to 1-3 and 4-5.
The two teams will close out a three-game series with a doubleheader at Arcata High on Saturday, with first pitch set for 11 a.m.