By Ray Hamill — An historic season for the Fortuna Huskies is showing no signs of slowing down.
One week after they clinched their first Big 5 championship since 1975, the Fortuna players secured their first-ever Charlie Lakin tournament championship with a 9-7 win over the Arcata Tigers at the Arcata Ball Park on Friday night.
The game was a highly-entertaining back-and-forth affair and capped three very good nights of tournament action.
The lead changed hands several times throughout the game, with the Huskies breaking a late 7-7 tie when the clutch Rogan Gans drove in Cody Collins on a line drive base hit in the bottom of the sixth.
A second run would score on the play thanks to an Arcata error, one of three on the night for the Tigers, who out-hit the Big 5 champs 9-5.
“We stayed the course,” Fortuna head coach Max Betts said. “I’ve been preaching all year that we can’t get too high and we can’t get too low.
“I just thought our guys really stayed the course. They handled business and they showed maturity tonight.”
They also won with what their coach described as their “three-headed monster” on the mound.
Cole Ayala got the start, with Matt Letter throwing four innings in relief for the win and Cody Collins closing the door in the seventh for the save.
All three were available after Drew Franklin threw 6.2 innings in Thursday’s semifinal win over McKinleyville.
It has been a remarkable spring for this group of players who are enjoying a season for the ages.
And they’re not done yet.
“I told the guys after the game ‘you guys have set the standard for Fortuna baseball,’” said Betts, who added “I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys in my first year and I’m just excited for what’s to come.”
Including next week’s North Coast Section playoffs, with the Huskies guaranteed to host at least one game.
The Fortuna boys are ranked No. 3 in the Division-4 field, according to MaxPreps, trailing No. 1 Saint Joseph Notre Dame and No. 2 Arcata.
After beating the Tigers to the league title and the Lakin tournament championship, they could end up with a top-two seed for the postseason.
“I told the guys the job’s not finished,” Betts added. “We’re never satisfied. We’re 0-0 going into next week.”
Gans was the only Fortuna player with multiple hits in Friday’s win and finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs, two runs and a walk, while Rylan Lommori had a base hit and scored, Cole Ayala had a base hit, a walk and a run, and Letter had a base hit, a walk and scored three runs.
Collins, who has been playing at an MVP level all spring, was walked three times and made the Tigers pay after making it all the way to home plate on two of those free passes.
Tyler Schlesiger also had a walk, while Franklin and Colt Chamberlain each reached on a hit-by-pitch and Hunter Reback had a key RBI.
Ben Lukens and Miles Oliver both pitched well for the Tigers, combining to allow just five hits.
With the championship, the Huskies became just the third H-DN team to win a Charlie Lakin Tournament following in the footsteps of Eureka, which won four straight from 2016 to 2019, and Arcata, which won the inaugural tournament in 2015 and also won last year.
With the win, the Huskies improved to 12-7-1, while the Tigers dropped to 20-7.