By Ray Hamill — It’s rare for an athlete to win a North Coast Section championship and even more so to win two of them, especially when there’s no section playoffs for two of your four high school seasons.
But that’s exactly what an elite group of local baseball and softball players are hoping for in the coming days.
The H-DNL won four championships the last time the playoffs were held in 2019, with South Fork, Hoopa and McKinleyville claiming titles in softball and Arcata winning one in baseball.
And there are 11 players this season remaining from those championship teams, all of them now seniors who have experienced extraordinary times during their high school years.
All 11 of them, of course, were freshmen on the 2019 championship-winning squads, and all of them are now leading the way and setting the example for their younger teammates.
At Arcata, Vincent Agliolo and Alex Gorge both played a key role all season long for the team that defeated McKinleyville 3-0 in the 2019 section decider, while teammates Finn McRae, Nick Parker and Isaiah Levy were all also on the NCS winning roster.
St. Bernard’s senior Drew Vizenor also played on that team before transferring, and he could very well have the easiest route to a repeat championship this season while playing for the heavy favorites in Division 6.
Five softball players, meanwhile, also tasted NCS success in 2019.
McKinleyville’s Allie Egbert also is an NCS winner and was a part of the history-making 2019 Panthers team that won the Big 5, the Charlie Lakin Tournament and an NCS title.
The Arcata boys and the Hoopa and Mack girls are all seeded No. 1 in their brackets this year, and all will fancy their chances of a repeat championship.
The South Fork girls are also looking for a repeat championship, having defeated Laytonville 18-0 for a second straight Division-6 title in 2019.
Because of their recent success at the D-6 level, the Cubs were moved up to Division 5 and are seeded No. 7 for this year’s playoffs.
If they can upset the odds and win another section crown, that would not just mean another NCS medal for seniors Lily Carr, Lyndsee Brewer and Olivia Ward — each of whom was a freshman on the 2019 team — but it would give each of them the rare distinction of winning NCS medals in two different divisions.