By Ray Hamill — The Arcata Tigers threw the race for the Big 5 championship wide open on Saturday after sweeping a doubleheader against league leaders Fortuna.
After dropping the series opener to Fortuna earlier in the week, Arcata won a close game one on Saturday by a score of 3-2, before pulling away late in game two on the way to a 10-5 victory.
The win lifts the Tigers to 4-2 in the Big 5 and into a tie with Fortuna for the league lead after the Huskies saw their six-game winning streak end as they drop to 6-3 in league play.
And that’s kind of the way it’s been so far in this year’s Big 5, with only one sweep in the opening six series of league play.
The Tigers, however, have put themselves in the driver’s seat with the two wins on Saturday, and the late rally in game two could very well end up being a league-clincher.
“We’ve got six games to go and every game is going to be a battle for us,” said Arcata head coach Troy Ghisetti, whose team has won both of its league series. “We’ve got to keep going week in week out and continue to win series.”
The Arcata players are certainly playing with some confidence.
After Fortuna’s Rylan Lommori had doubled his team’s lead with a two-RBI single in the top of the fifth inning in game two, the Huskies led 5-1.
But the Tigers would answer in emphatic fashion in the bottom half of the inning, sending 11 players to bat and plating five runs — two on a Finn Warner single past first base — while also leaving the bases loaded.
They would carry that momentum into the sixth, leading off the inning with three straight singles and scoring four more runs to all but the end the game.
“The kids never gave up, they stayed in and battled,” Ghisetti said. “They kept chipping away and things started going our way.”
Eight different Arcata players hit successfully in game two.
Ty Ghisetti and Chase Coleman each had two hits in the win, with Warner, Will Mager, Anthony Ebert, Ben Lukens, Cedar Cline and Noah Waterhouse each finishing with one.
Cline got the start on the mound for the Tigers, who have now won 10 of their last 11 games, and pitched 4.1 strong innings, before Miles Oliver came in to close out the game and got the win.
Oliver also displayed this leadership qualities in the dugout, keeping his teammates focused late in game two.
The Huskies struck first and took a two-run lead in the top of the third inning before the Tigers responded with a run in the bottom half of the inning.
But Fortuna added three more runs in the fifth, including two on Lommori’s big hit, to lead by four.
Six different Fortuna players hit successfully in the game, including Cody Collins, who was 1-for-2 with a double and a run and also reached base on a walk and a hit-by-pitch.
Matt Letter also had a double and a walk and scored twice, while Cole Ayala was 1-for-2 with a pair of walks and Rogan Gans was 1-for-3 with two RBIs.
Cole Victorine rounded out a six-hit team performance.
Ayala got the start on the hill and pitched four good innings for a no-decision.
The Huskies took the early lead in a well-played game one on Saturday, but the Tigers would battle back to take a 2-1 lead in the fourth when Ben Lukens doubled before being driven home by Coleman.
However, the Huskies would pull even on an Ayala home run to center field in the top of the sixth, before Ebert doubled in the bottom half of the inning and would score the winning run on an error.
Mager and Coleman each finished 2-for-3, while Warner was 1-for-2.
Lukens pitched six strong innings for the victory on the mound, with Cline closing out and getting the save.
The Huskies had five hits, with Collins once again influential and going 2-for-3 with a walk and a run.
Letter also had a base hit to drive in the early Fortuna run, while Ayala had three intentional walks in addition to the home run.
Lommori also had a hit, with Collins pitching six solid innings in the loss, allowing seven hits and a walk and striking out four.
The Huskies, who are now 7-6-1 overall, will have a bye in league play next week before closing out the Big 5 with a three-game series against Eureka.
The Tigers, who are now 15-3, will open a three-game series against the Panthers at McKinleyville on Wednesday.