Panthers hold on late as Wildcats rally falls just short

Photos by Ray Hamill/HumboldtSports.con – Riley Bates rounds the bases after hitting a home run at the Arcata Ball Park on Wednesday night.

By Ray Hamill — A pair of early home runs proved to be decisive in an entertaining game between McKinleyville and Ferndale on the opening night of the Charlie Lakin tournament on Wednesday.

Tyson Bragg hit a monster home run in the top of the second inning and Riley Bates added a second in the fifth, as the Panthers stormed out to an 8-0 lead at the Arcata Ball Park.

The Wildcats, however, refused to go down without a fight and rallied to score seven runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to make for an interesting finish.

But the Mack boys held on late for a 9-7 win to advance to Thursday’s semifinals, where they will play Big 5 champion Fortuna for a place in this year’s Charlie Lakin final.

“I think we played well,” McKinleyville head coach Mike Dobrec said. “That one inning we had a letdown, but you’ve got to give Ferndale credit. They’re scrappy.”

Composed sophomore Kolbe Stolpe, who has been outstanding at the plate all season, took over on the mound for McKinleyville late in the game and helped shut the door by getting the final five outs.

Ultimately, however, it was the early Mack offense that paved the way to victory, including the two crucial home runs.

“Hats off to McKinleyville, they hit the ball hard all night,” Ferndale head coach Justin Andersen said. “But I was glad to see my boys not fold and keep battling.”

Bragg finished 2-for-3 in the win, while Bates was 2-for-2.

Stolpe also made his presence felt at the plate and finished 1-for-2 with two intentional walks.

Tenoch Tapia, Pat Wilson, Bryce Sargent, Branson Dobrec and Kaden Waugh each also had a base hit in the win.

Jackson Kelly pitched five strong innings before the late Ferndale rally and the sophomore standout got the win on the mound.

The impressive Levi Dixon led the Wildcats at the plate and was 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a run.

No. 9 hitter Thomas Fergison also had an impact at the plate and finished 1-for-3 with a key sixth-inning double that kickstarted the late rally.

Jonah Anderson also was 1-for-4 with two RBIs, while Parker Prior, Jarett Smith, Tanner Pidgeon and Austin Michel each had a hit, an RBI and a run.

Thursday’s other semifinal will see Arcata play St. Bernard’s at 4 p.m.

The Tigers defeated South Fork 13-4 in their opener, while both St. Bernard’s and Fortuna had opening-round byes.

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