By Ray Hamill — The McKinleyville Panthers rallied late for the second straight game to go to 2-0 in Big 5 softball.
Trailing Fortuna by a run going into the bottom of the sixth inning, the Panthers plated five unanswered runs and held on for a 6-2 victory at Mack High.
The game was delayed by two-and-a-half hours, but that didn’t seem to affect either team in what another entertaining and close-fought showdown between these two league rivals.
It was a much better game defensively by both teams, who had combined for 12 errors in their league opener at Fortuna on Wednesday, which the Panthers also won with a late rally, 13-12.
“It was definitely a lot better than Wednesday as far as defense goes,” McKinleyville head coach Shanna McCracken said. “It was a weird day waiting around for the game to start, but they kept their energy up.”
Senior Camryn Pinard hit a one-out triple in the bottom of the third and would score moments later on a Bailee Box sac fly to give the home team a one-run advantage.
But the Huskies rallied with two runs in the fifth to take the lead, with freshman Isabel Sanchez and senior Kylee Fennell each driving in a run.
After stranding the potential tying run at third in the bottom half of that inning, the Panthers made no mistake in the sixth.
First baseman Kennedy Minton tied the game on a clutch single to shallow right field and would score herself a few minutes later on a bases-clearing double by Box.
That gave the Panthers defense and pitcher McKennah Sargent a four-run cushion heading into the top of the seventh and that would prove to be more than enough.
Sargent has been one of the stories of the season so far in the Big 5 and that continued to be the case on Saturday.
The standout freshman pitched all seven innings for the win, allowing just two runs on six hits, while striking out three and walking one.
Fennell also has been one of the stories of the early season and the Fortuna senior pitcher had another outstanding game.
“Kylee Fennell has definitely been playing extremely well,” Fortuna head coach Eric Helms said. “She pitched a fabulous four-and-a-third innings for us, and she’s doing really well at the plate.”
Fennell pitched the 4.1 innings for a no-decision and was 1-for-4 at the plate with the RBI.
Sanchez, a freshman, took over in relief in the fifth and took the loss despite a solid performance while pitching at the varsity level for the first time.
“We just wanted to give them a different look with Isabel,” Helms said of the freshman, who was coming off an impressive performance for the Fortuna JVs on Friday.
Helms, however, added that the team needs to close out games better.
“We just have to learn how to finish a game,” he said. “We’ve just got to play with a little more confidence at the end of games.”
Despite the loss, there were several bright spots for the Huskies.
In addition to Fennell and Sanchez, left fielder Myra Hayes made a great catch to end the sixth inning and highlighted a much-improved team defensive performance.
“I thought for the most part our defense was good,” Helms said. “Both teams played better defense today.
“The McKinleyville lineup is pretty solid one through nine and they made us pay when they got runners on base late in the game.”
Pinard finished 1-for-3 with the triple and two runs for Mack, while Box was 1-for-2 with the bases-clearing double and Minton went 2-for-3 with her game-tying RBI.
Sargent also had a hit as did teammate Trinity Preston.
The win was the fourth straight for the Mack girls, who are now 6-1, while the loss was the second straight to start league for the Huskies after starting the season with six straight none-league wins.
The second game of Saturday’s scheduled doubleheader had to be postponed and will be played either on Monday or Thursday of next week, weather permitting.
Categories: Fortuna, McKinleyville, Softball
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