Four of the six H-DNL teams in action in the North Coast Section baseball and softball playoffs on Tuesday night won their opening games, setting up a pair of all-H-DNL quarterfinals this weekend.
In softball, St. Bernard’s won a tricky 8 vs. 9 seed matchup against visiting University at Samoa, 6-2, while South Fork defeated Redding Christian 15-5 in five innings at Miranda.
The Crusaders will now advance to play Hoopa on Friday evening, while South Fork will play at St. Helena on Saturday night.
In the Division-4 playoffs, meanwhile, No. 2 seed Del Norte comfortably took care of business at home to No. 15 Middletown, winning 16-0, while Fortuna also won a tricky 8 vs. 9 seed matchup on the road at Cloverdale, winning 5-1 in nine innings.
Next up, the Warriors will host Salesian on Saturday afternoon, while Fortuna will play at top seed McKinleyville on Friday evening at 5 p.m.
Also in Division 4 on Tuesday, the No. 12 Arcata girls fell 10-1 at No. 5 Piedmont.
In baseball, meanwhile, the Eureka Loggers saw their season end in a 3-0 loss at Las Lomas, in yet another 8 vs. 9 seed game involving an H-DNL team.
South Fork 15, Redding Christian 5
Freshman Emily Balajadia had a playoff debut she won’t easily forget in her first-ever NCS game.
Balajadia finished 4-for-4 with three inside-the-park home runs in a 10-run five-inning win in Miranda.
Another Cubs freshman, Shawnessy Conway-O’Neill, also was instrumental in the win, turning in one of her best pitching performances of the season.
Conway-O’Neill struck out five and allowed just three hits in the five innings and also was 3-for-4 at the plate with two runs.
The ever-consistent Summer Contreras also had a good game and finished 3-for-3 with a double, a walk and two runs, while Micheala McMahan was 2-for-3 with a fourth-inning grand slam.
The No. 7 Cubs will now play at No. 2 St. Helena on Saturday night at 7 p.m.
Del Norte 16, Middletown 0
The Warriors had little difficulty advancing, thanks to some quality pitching and plenty of offense.
Sophomore ace McKenna Curtis was in command in the pitcher’s circle, striking out nine in three hitless innings and allowing just two walks.
Freshman Shay Nolan pitched the final two innings and was almost as effective, allowing just one hit in two more scoreless innings.
“Everybody got in the game and everybody got a hit,” head coach Jackie Heuberger said.
Senior Josephine Heuberger led the way at the plate and finished 4-for-4 with a home run, two triples and three RBIs, while Curtis finished 3-for-3.
In-form freshman Audrey Phillips continued to impress and finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs, while Alexis Heuberger was 2-for-4 and also drove in a run.
Another freshman, Carlee Harper, was 1-for-2.
Del Norte will now play Salesian in the quarterfinals in Crescent City on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Fortuna 5, Cloverdale 1
Kylee Fennell was outstanding in the pitcher’s circle and threw all nine innings for the win, allowing just one earned run on four hits and two walks, while striking out 11.
The Huskies had to battle from behind late in the game, overcoming a one-run deficit in the top of the seventh to force the extra innings.
Freshman outfielder Myra Hayes was walked to reach base and scored a few moments later on a Kelsie Hall base hit to tie the game.
Hayes was also instrumental in a four-run ninth, leading off the inning with another walk before base hits by Libby Johnston and Hall and doubles by Zoe Dewberry and Kadence Mace broke open a tight game.
And that was all Fennell and her defense would need, as they shut the door on the home team to seal a first playoff win for the Huskies since Hailey Dolcini was dominating in the circle for them.
Hall had a huge day at the plate and finished 4-for-5 with a double and two RBIs.
“These girls never gave up,” head coach Eric Helms said. “Even though we trailed for six innings, they always believed they would win. And when they tied the game, believed they would win. Kylee Fennell pitched the game of her life today. I’m so proud of every one of them.”