NCS BASEBALL — Three Big 5 teams march on, Panthers bow out 

McKinleyville’s Evan Fraser delivers a pitch against Healdsburg on Wednesday.

Three of the four Big 5 teams in action on Wednesday won their North Coast Section playoff openers.

In Division 4, No, 1 seed Fortuna overcame an early deficit to beat No. 16 St. Helena 7-2, while No. 7 Del Norte beat No. 10 Fort Bragg 4-0 with sophomore Preston Daniels pitching a no-hitter in his first-ever playoff start.

In Richmond, meanwhile, No. 3 Arcata defeated No. 14 Salesian 15-10 in a high-scoring affair, with Tigers sophomore Anthony Ebert hitting a grand slam and driving in seven of his team’s runs.

Also in Division 4, No. 6 McKinleyville saw a last rally fall short in an 8-4 loss at home against No. 11 Healdsburg.

The big story of the night was Daniels, who had a fourth straight strong outing on his way to throwing the no-hitter.

“That was awesome,” head coach Brandon Coborn said. “In his first playoff start, that was huge. It was really exciting to see.”

Daniels struck out eight and walked five, while also hitting a pair of batters.

The Warriors scored their four runs on just four hits, with Cooper Maxwell leading the way and finishing 2-for-3 with a run.

Saxon Taylor and Aiden Rice each also had a hit, with Taylor driving in a run and Rice scoring a run.

“I thought we played really well,” Coborn said, “We took care of the baseball and we backed our pitcher up.”

Ethan Thomas also drove in two runs, one on a fielder’s choice and one on a bases-loaded walk, as the Warriors opened up a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second and never looked back.

Willie Bommelyn also had a productive day, reaching base on a walk and hit-by-pitch, stealing a pair of bases, and adding a run and an RBI.

“He set the tone for us, right out of the gate,” Coborn said of the lead-off batter.

The playoff win was the first for the team since 2017 and sets up a quarterfinal showdown at No. 2 St. Joseph Notre Dame in Alameda on Saturday night at 7.

Action from Wednesday’s game at McKinleyville High.

Arcata 15, Salesian 10

The Arcata boys had to travel to the Bay Area for their playoff opener despite being the higher seed because Salesian is a league champion, but that didn’t affect the outcome, with Ebert and the Tigers scoring nine runs in the fifth on the way to victory.

Ebert was one of five Arcata players to finish with at least three hits, going 3-for-4, while teammate Miles Oliver finished 4-for-4.

Will Mager also was 3-for-4 with a double, while Finn Warner finished 3-for-3 and Cedar Cline 3-for-4.

Cline also pitched five innings and struck out seven, with Oliver and Ben Lukens each throwing one inning in relief to help secure the win.

Chase Coleman added two hits and Wilson Medina one to round out a dominating day at the plate for the Tigers.

The No. 2 seeds will return home to host Healdsburg in their quarterfinal on Saturday at noon.

A victory for both Del Norte and Arcata on Saturday would see them face off in an all-Big 5 NCS semifinal.

Fortuna 7, St. Helena 2

Drew Franklin pitched 6.2 strong innings for Huskies in their playoff opener, as the Big 5 champs moved on to the Division-4 quarterfinals.

Franklin allowed just four hits and no walks and struck out four on his way to the win, with Matt Letter getting the final out on a strikeout.

At the plate, Cody Collins was one of three Fortuna players to finish with a pair of hits, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

Cole Ayala was 2-for-3 with an RBI and Rylan Lommori was 2-for-4 with a double.

Franklin added a hit and an RBI to help his own cause, while Cole Victorine was 1-for-1 with an RBI and Colt Chamberlain was 1-for-2.

The win was the fourth straight and sixth in seven games for the Huskies, who are looking to add an NCS championship to the historic league and Lakin tournament double they have already won this spring.

The top seeds will host either No. 8 Piedmont or No. 9 Branson on Saturday night at 7 p.m. in Newburg Park.

Healdsburg 8, McKinleyville 4

A young McKinleyville team suffered an early postseason exit after the visiting Greyhounds opened up an 8-0 lead and held on down the stretch despite a late Panthers rally.

McKinleyville’s Riles Egbert hit a three-run home run to keep his team alive in the bottom of the final inning, but the deficit was too big to overcome against a Healdsburg team that had scored five runs in the top half of the inning.

“Obviously we didn’t play the way we wanted to  play, but I give the kids credit for getting the zero off the board at the end,” head coach Mike Dobrec said. “That was a big hit by Riles.”

Egbert is one of seven sophomores on this year’s team, with the Panthers graduating just two seniors — Riley Bates and Jack Saso — and the young players should benefit from Wednesday’s experience.

Bates, Bryce Sargent, Tyson Bragg and Scott Meyer each also had a hit in the loss, with Bates getting the start on the mound and throwing four good innings.

Junior Evan Fraser threw the final three innings.

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