By Ray Hamill — The Eureka Loggers are Charlie Lakin Tournament champions for the second time after defeating a resilient Hoopa Warriors team in the championship game at the Arcata Sports Complex on Saturday.
The Loggers broke a late deadlock with three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and held on for a 5-2 win over the Little 4 champions.
The victory gives the program a first-ever Big 5 and Lakin tourney double in what has been — and continues to be — a remarkable season.
“I think we played good overall as a team,” said head coach Robin Johnson, whose players improved to 24-1 and won the historic double in her first season in charge of the varsity team. “Kira (Morris) had good pitching, our defense was good and the hitting was good towards the end.”
It took the Eureka bats a while to warm up and adjust to the speed of Hoopa pitcher Savannah Colegrove, who had another good day in the circle in a matchup of two of the top pitchers in the H-DNL this season.
But the Hoopa defense was only able to hold the big Eureka batters in check for so long, and they broke open a tight game with three consecutive base hits to lead off the bottom of the fifth and take control of the game.
Second baseman Payton Goodman led off the inning with a single and was quickly advanced to third on a ground rule double by fellow senior McKenna Beach.
Morris then launched a triple to center field to drive home both runners and she would score moments later herself on a Zia Gee groundout to give the Big 5 champs a three-run cushion.
And with Morris in command in the circle once again, that was all the Loggers would need to clinch their first Lakin title since 2018.
The victory closed out a busy week at the Arcata Sports Complex, as the H-DNL postseason tournament made a welcome return for the first time in three years.
“It’s awesome for the program,” Johnson said. “We were good last year (14-0), but we didn’t have any playoffs, so it was really nice to be able to compete.”
Goodman finished 2-for-3 with a double, while Kaitlin Giacone was 1-for-3 and had two stolen bases.
In addition to her game-winning triple, Morris struck out 11 in a complete-game performance.
The Division-V Warriors, who became just the second Little 4 team to reach a Lakin championship game, battled hard against the D-III Loggers and made a game of it against them for the second time this season.
“I was really proud of the girls,” head coach Ryan Colegrove said. “They hit the ball really well and (Morris) had to make adjustments. They played hard.
“Playing a Division-III team like that will help prepare us for the playoffs. We had nothing to lose, and they hit really well and they put the bat on the ball, and I was really proud of them for that.”
Tatianna Colegrove led the Warriors with a par of hits, including a hard-hit single to lead off the game and set the tone.
Nalani Colegrove added a double, while Bella Valentine, Savannah Colegrove, Diamond and Jewely Bibancos, Nae-Rew Martin and Rianna Bain each also had a hit.
With the loss, the Warriors are now 19-5 on the season.
Both teams will now turn their attention to next week’s North Coast Section playoffs, and each will find out their playoff seed and first-round opponent on Sunday.
Both are the top-ranked teams in their NCS divisions, according to MaxPreps, and could be in line for a No. 1 seed.
At the very least, both will host games next week.