A exciting ride came to a thrilling conclusion on Friday afternoon, and when all was said and done a 48-year championship drought had ended.
We expected this year’s Big 5 to be tight and it lived up to the billing with just four games separating the five schools in the final standings and the league title going down to the bottom half of the final inning of the final day.
After being blown out 12-0 in the opening game of a doubleheader at home to the Eureka Loggers on Friday afternoon, the Fortuna Huskies had to dig deep to pull out a victory in game two, but they held their nerve for a 5-4 victory that clinched the league title outright.
With his team training 4-0 heading in the sixth inning, Cole Ayala hit a three-run home run and the Huskies tied the game with four runs in the bottom half of the inning.
Ayala then struck again with a league-clinching walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh.
It was an impressive way to end such a long championship drought and the Big 5 pennant is the first for the program since 1975, bridging a gap of almost half a century.
The doubleheader closed out one of the most exciting and unpredictable Big 5 campaigns in recent times, and of the 10 league series this spring, only one resulted in a sweep.
The pennant guarantees the Huskies the league’s automatic North Coast Section berth and a home game for the playoffs, as well as the top seed and a first-round bye for next week’s Charlie Lakin tournament.
The Arcata Tigers will receive the No. 2 seed for the tournament, with McKinleyville No. 3.
Cooper Ohlsen pitched a good game for Eureka in Friday’s opener, throwing all seven innings for the win.
Ohlsen gave up just five hits and no walks in the shutout and struck out six.
Jesse Vasquez, Michael Jewell and Ty Crawford each also had two hits while Cole Zeller and Robert Williams each had one.
Crawford added two more hits in game two and had two RBIs, while Williams, Grammer, Rogan Bode and Alex Jimenez also had a hit apiece.
No final stats were immediately available for Fortuna.