By Ray Hamill — Unlike with our baseball end-of-season awards, the softball awards were not quite so clearcut.
And that’s a reflection of how competitive the H-DNL is when it comes to the sport.
Of the past 12 North Coast Section titles, in fact, five have been won by the H-DNL, which is a remarkable stat for any conference but particularly so for the smallest conference in the section.
That’s a testament to the how the sport has grown here and the quality of coaching in the area.
Here then are our awards …
HUMBOLDT SPORTS END-OF-SEASON AWARDS
Co-PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
Kira Morris, Eureka, Junior
McKenna Beach, Eureka, Senior
There was no separating this dynamic duo all season long, as they played a pivotal role in one of the Loggers’ all-time best seasons.
Morris dominated in the circle, while Beach anchored the defense behind the plate, and both players were a force on offense, impressing as much as the best talent in the entire NCS.
Statistically, they were the top two on their team in eight major categories.
Beach led the team in batting average (.593), on-base percentage (0.650), runs (41), hits (51) and slugging percentage (0.998), with Morris second in all of those categories, batting .505 with a 0.535 on-base percentage, 36 runs, 46 hits and a 0.923 slugging percentage.
Morris also led the team with seven home runs — followed by Beach with four — and had a section-leading 54 RBIs, with Beach driving in 31.
Both players also led their team with four triples each.
Morris was equally effective in the pitcher’ circle, where she won 24 games, which was tied for best in the NCS, and had an ERA of 1.31.
Together, these two standouts led the way on a Loggers team that won a vey impressive 27 games and made it to the semifinals of their NorCal bracket, with their only three losses coming by one run each.
Hoopa’s Savannah Colegrove, who was named MVP of the Little 4, was equally influential for the Warriors, leading her team both in the circle and at the plate and walking away with a second career NCS winners’ medal.
TEAM OF THE YEAR
This was another tough call, with three worthy candidates for the award.
But when all was said and done, it was the Loggers who were clearly the best team on the North Coast this spring and the team that went deeper into the postseason than any other, making it all the way to the NorCal semis.
They lost just once to H-DNL opposition all spring — an extra-innings defeat at McKinleyville — and clinched a rare Big 5 and Charlie Lakin Tournament double championship.
They may not have won an NCS title like Hoopa and McKinleyville, but they left little doubt as to who was the most dominating team in the H-DNL in 2022.
Both Hoopa and McKinleyville defended their NCS championships and either would have been a worthy team of the year in almost any other season.
Co-COACHES OF THE YEAR
Shanna McCracken, McKinleyville
Ryan Colegrove, Hoopa
The H-DNL has achieved unparalleled success in softball over the past few seasons and that can in large part be attributed to the quality of coaching in the area.
No one more so than McCracken and Colegrove, who have built a pair of NCS dynasties.
Both programs defended their section titles from 2019 this season, and the fact that both did it with completely different rosters and just one returning player on each is a testament to their coaching talents.
Both McCracken and Colegrove have also won with the help of some outstanding assistants, including Drew Riddle, Mike Minton and Jaycee Morais at Mack, and Amber McCovey-Billings, Floyd “Cowboy” Billings and Steve Valentine at Hoopa.
Riddle in particular has helped establish the Panthers dynasty along with McCracken, while Colegrove paid tribute to her staff earlier this season, saying each of them brings something different to the table and enabled the Warriors to do a lot of different things this year.
Eureka’s Robin Johnson and her staff of assistants set a high bar for themselves this season in their first year in charge of the varsity team.
There didn’t seem to be much of a learning curve for Johnson, who appears to have a bright future as a head coach.