By Ray Hamill — When it comes to softball, the H-DNL apparently is in a league of its own, and the same can be said of the St. Bernard’s baseball team.
The local conference will compete for four of the 12 section championships in baseball and softball on Friday night, with all four of those games being played here in Humboldt County, which I’m pretty sure is a first-ever for the area.
If all four should win — and remember they’re all top seeds who are hosting — it would give the H-DNL a third of the section crowns in baseball and softball for the second straight postseason, which would be a remarkable achievement for the area.
Especially in softball, where the smallest of the six NCS conferences is playing for half of the section titles for the second straight postseason.
The Eureka girls will host San Rafael in the Division-3 softball championship, while the McKinleyville girls will host Fort Bragg in the Division-4 decider, and the Hoopa girls will host St. Helena in the Division-5 final.
All of those games are set for 5 p.m., with the St. Bernard’s boys hosting Credo at Bomber Field at 7 p.m. to decide the Division-6 baseball championship.
And all four H-DNL teams are playing for more than just a little bit of league history.
The Eureka girls have never won an NCS championship in softball, and if they can finally achieve that this weekend, that would be a legacy that would set this group of players apart from all the other teams that have come before them.
“We’re just going to take it pitch by pitch and inning by inning, but as a program, it would be awesome to get that first NCS (championship),” first-year Eureka head coach Robin Johnson said. “Especially not competing for the past two years.”
Hoopa also is playing for some history.
The defending NCS Division-5 champs are competing for their seventh all-time section crown, which would put them one ahead of Little 4 rival Ferndale and give them more than any other H-DNL team.
And playing the championship game in front of a home crowd is a big deal for both the team and the community.
The St. Bernard’s boys also are playing for some NCS history.
With 13 titles already to their name — the last coming in 2015 — the Crusaders are already comfortably the most successful H-DNL baseball team in the NCS by a long way, having one more section title than the rest of the conference combined.
Their 13 titles, however, as far as I can tell, is also the most by any NCS school in the sport.
Division-I De La Salle has 12 NCS crowns in baseball, just one fewer than St. Bernard’s, and the Spartans are playing Foothill for another championship on Friday night, where a win could see them tie the Crusaders’ all-time mark before the SB players take the field.
A win for the Crusaders, on the other hand, would guarantee to keep them ahead of the pack (again, as far as I can tell).
It would also give the school a section title in a sixth consecutive decade, having won at least one in each of the past five decades.
The McKinleyville girls, meanwhile, are looking for a repeat championship, having won in 2019 along with the Hoopa and South girls and the Arcata boys.
With two championships to their name, the Panthers are already the most successful Big 5 program in NCS softball history, having also won one in 1988.
(Del Norte is currently the only other Big 5 team to have won an NCS crown, having won one in 2008.)
Success for the Panthers would be a testament to the tremendous job head coach Shanna McCracken has done at the smallest of the Big 5 schools.
It would also be a notable achievement for senior Allie Egbert, who is the only holdover from the 2019 championship team and one of three H-DNL players looking to close out with a rare second NCS medal, along with Hoopa’s Savannah Colegrove and St. Bernard’s Drew Vizenor, who was a freshman on Arcata’s 2019 championship team.
The Mack girls split a pair of one-run games at Fort Bragg earlier in the season, and both teams will be familiar with each other.
“I think that will be a good game for us,” McCracken said. “We’ve seen them, but it’s been a while. Hopefully we’ll come out and play our game.”
Eureka has been the most impressive of all the H-DNL softball teams still playing and the Loggers come into the big Friday night showdown with a record of 26-1.
With junior pitcher Kira Morris dominating in the circle, the Loggers have won 17 straight games, while giving up just one or fewer runs in 13 of those wins.
Morris is 23-0 in the circle.
Colegrove has been almost as dominating for the Warriors, who appear to be a team on a mission ever since they surprisingly lost at St. Bernard’s earlier in the league campaign.
And the Warriors, who have captured the attention of the local community, can expect a big turnout on Friday night.
“It’s big,” head coach Ryan Colegrove said. “We’re making history right now. This is the first time we get to host (an NCS championship game), and that’s pretty neat. We definitely have the community behind us. People care about the girls and are going out of their way to show their support.”
The four H-DNL schools are not just playing for an NCS title on Friday but also for a place in next week’s CIF NorCal regional tournament.
The six section winners in both sports will advance, along with three at-large berths from the entire section.