By Ray Hamill — The smallest conference in the North Coast Coast Section packs quite a punch when it comes to baseball and softball.
Remarkably, although not surprisingly, the H-DNL received five No. 1 seeds for the upcoming NCS baseball and softball playoffs, giving the conference almost half of the 12 top seeds for the entire section — which includes 18 leagues in six conferences, all of them with more member schools than the H-DNL — as the postseason returns for the first time in three years.
In softball, as expected, Eureka, Hoopa and McKinleyville all received No. 1 seeds in their brackets and all will host games for as long as they keep winning.
In addition, the Del Norte girls are a No. 2 seed in the Division-4 bracket.
In baseball, both Arcata and St. Bernard’s also received a top seed, as 15 of the 18 combined H-DNL varsity baseball and softball teams qualified for the playoffs.
Fresh off their Charlie Lakin Tournament championship on Saturday night, the Arcata boys will have a bye in the first round of the Division-4 bracket and will open against either No. 8 Redwood Christian or No. 9 Salesian in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
St. Bernard’s is the red-hot favorite in Division 6 and will open the eight-team bracket on Wednesday at home to No. 8 Tomales at 5 p.m.
If the Crusaders win, they could face Little 4 rival South Fork in next weekend’s semifinals, providing the No. 4 Cubs can get the better of No. 5 San Domenico in Miranda on Wednesday, also at 5 p.m.
Ferndale also qualified in Division 6, and the No. 3 seeds will play at No. 6 Point Arena, also on Wednesday at 5 p.m.
The Eureka Loggers, meanwhile, are the No. 9 seed in the Division-3 baseball bracket and will open on the road at No. 8 Las Lomas on Tuesday at 5 p.m.
Fortuna and McKinleyville also are included in the Division-4 baseball bracket.
The Huskies received the No. 11 seed and will open at No. 6 St. Helena on Wednesday at 7 p.m., while the No. 13 Panthers will open at No. 4 St. Joseph Notre Dame, also on Wednesday at 7.
Eureka, Hoopa girls get a bye
In softball, both H-DNL No. 1 seeds received an opening-round bye.
The Eureka Loggers will open the Division-3 bracket at home on either Friday or Saturday against either No. 8 Acalanes or No. 9 Encinal, while the Warriors could face off against a familiar foe in their Division-5 quarterfinal on either Friday or Saturday.
No. 8 St. Bernard’s will host No. 9 University on Tuesday at 5 p.m., with the winner advancing to play at Hoopa.
South Fork also qualified in Division 5 and will host No. 10 Redwood Christian, also on Tuesday at 5 p.m.
All of the Big 5 softball teams qualified, including four in Division 4.
No. 1 McKinleyville will open on Tuesday at 5 p.m. at home to No. 16 Swett, while No. 2 Del Norte will host No. 15 Middletown, also on Tuesday at 5.
No. 9 Fortuna will open on the road at No. 8 Cloverdale, while No. 12 Arcata will play at No. 5 Piedmont, with both of those games also at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.
The last time the NCS baseball and softball playoffs were held was in 2019 and the H-DNL remarkably took home a record four of the 12 combined titles, including three of the six NCS softball championships.
Not bad for the smallest conference in the section, and if Sunday’s seeds are anything to go by, 2022 could be even better.