By Ray Hamill — Merek Sears believes his time playing for the Humboldt Crabs this summer will help him as he gets set for a return to Division-I ball.
The former Eel River Little League All-Star and Arcata Tiger has enjoyed plenty of success on the local baseball fields over the years and he made his debut with the Crabs this summer.
He appeared in five games for the local club, including four starts, and was one of the team’s most reliable arms during his short stay with the team.
And he went out in style over the weekend, getting the win on the mound in his final outing with the team with another strong performance against the Sacramento Saints on Friday night.
After four weeks with the team, Sears has had to cut short his summer season as he heads over to the University of Houston to take care of some academic requirements before joining the Cougars team in the fall.
“We knew when we signed him that we were only going to have him for half the summer, but I knew he could help us for however long we had him, and he did,” Crabs manager Robin Guiver said of Sears. “He was probably our best (pitcher) for the first half of the season, or one of them. He has good pace on the mound, he throws good stuff and he knows how to pitch.”
Sears was 2-0 in his four starts, with a 2.33 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 27 innings.
More importantly, he enjoyed his time playing for the local club and feels it will benefit his game as he gets set for the next challenge and a return to D-I collegiate ball.
“It was just a great experience,” he said. “It was nice to play at home with a lot of local people and spend some time with my family.
“I was able to play with a lot of guys I played with previously and I had fun with it.”
Sears is no stranger to the Arcata ball Park, having led the Tigers to a North Coast Section championship there as a junior in high school in 2019.
After graduation, he joined the Washington State program, but when the coaches sat him down and told him he would only have limited opportunities going forward, he transferred to Wabash Valley College in Illinois.
He enjoyed a big spring playing for the national powerhouse JC program this year and led the Warriors to the JUCO World Series, where they placed second in the nation.
It was the perfect landing spot to catapult him back to the Division-I level.
“Our team all-around was really good,” he said. “Every single starter went D-I.”
His performances at Wabash Valley caught the attention of the coaches at Houston and he was quickly sold on the idea of joining the Cougars.
“I wanted to find a place where I could throw a lot and they were looking for a left-handed pitcher that throws a lot of strikes,” Sears said. “(The coach) called me and we kind of hit it off, and it seemed like a great fit.”
Sears, who wants to major in Mechanical Engineering, is looking forward to the new challenge.
“I’m extremely excited about it,” he said. “I think it’s going to be the next step up from Washington State.
“They were third in the American Athletic Conference (in 2022) and one win from going to the Regionals. It looks like we’ll be pretty good next year. We’ve got some guys coming back and some good young talent.”
Sears became a regular weekend starter for the Crabs during his brief stay and he hopes to continue that at Houston.
“I think if I do everything right, I should earn a starting spot,” he said. “That’s the main goal for me. I got pretty comfortable starting for the Crabs and I just enjoyed that role.”
Sears got his start in baseball playing Little League for Eel River and enjoyed plenty of success as an All-Star with the local association.
This week, as the Eel River All-Stars battle it our for the District championship, he reflected on his time playing for them, which he described as “super fun for me.”
He won District titles as a 9- and 11-year-old, but lost a close championship game when he was 12, starting on the mound and falling to Arcata in an exciting pitchers’ duel.
Going against him was Arcata pitcher Jaden Gorge, who years later would play alongside Sears on the 2019 Arcata High NCS championship winning team.
Gorge’s home run was the difference in a 1-0 game that day.
“It was fun,” Sears said.