Clutch Panthers remain in the hunt for a league crown

Photos by Ray Hamill/ – Scott Meyer delivers pitch for the Panther son Saturday.

The McKinleyville Panthers kept their Big 5 title hopes alive with a pair of much-needed wins against Eureka on Saturday.

The Panthers ended a three-game losing skid with 8-1 and 6-5 victories at Bomber Field, digging deep to win game two while breaking a tie in the top of the seventh.

“I think they’re starting to believe,” head coach Mike Dobrec said. “And we’re coming together as a team.”

The wins lifted the Mack boys to 3-3 in the Big 5 and 6-4 overall, while the Loggers dropped to 2-4 and 6-4 and have now lost back-to-back series to begin league.

The Panthers opened up a 5-1 lead in game two, but the home team would chip away before tying the game at 5-5 with two runs in the bottom of the sixth.

Kolbey Stolpe, however, re-took the lead for McKinleyville in the top of the seventh, reaching base on a single before rounding all the way to third on a Pat Wilson double and then scoring on a Bryce Sargent base hit.

Wilson, a freshman who had just one varsity start before Saturday, was instrumental in the sweep, finishing with a double in each game and going 3-for-3 in game two.

“He hit the ball very well today,” Dobrec said of Wilson. “It was a team effort. I have to give my guys credit for sticking with it. That game could have gone either way.”

Several other Mack players had a big day, including pitcher Evan Fraser, who got the win in game one as the Panthers broke open a tight game with five runs in the top of the fifth.

Fraser gave up just one earned run on seven hits and no walks while striking out five, before Stolpe threw the final two innings to help seal the win.

Seven players hit successfully in the win.

In addition to Wilson’s double, Stolpe went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs, while Tyson Bragg was 1-for-1 with a run, Tenoch Tapia was 1-for-3 with two runs and an RBI, Sargent was 1-for-3 with an RBI, Jackson Kelly was 1-for-3 with a run, and Riley Bates had two RBIs.

Sargent, Wilson and Stolpe each had three hits in game two, with Sargent driving in three runs and Stolpe two.

Kelly added two hits, while Bates was 1-for-3 with an RBI and Jack Saso scored twice.

The Panthers utilized four pitchers in the win.

For Eureka, freshman Jesse Vasquez had a good game at the plate in game one and was 2-for-3 with a double and a run, while senior Ean Savage finished 2-for-3 with an RBI.

Cole Zeller, Caden Vance and Robert Williams each also had a hit for Eureka in game one, including a double by Williams.

Ty Crawford got the start on the mound and threw five innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits and four walks and striking out five, with Jorge Lopez pitching two hitless innings in relief.

In game two, the resilient Loggers were led by Rogan Bode, who was 2-for-5 with a double, an RBI and a run, while Vance had a double and Royce Olson, Seth Grammer and Toa Ou each also had a hit.

Cooper Ohlsen got the start on the mound and threw three innings for a no-decision, with Bode throwing the final four innings in relief.

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