Last of the Big 5 teams finding ways to win in the NCS

Photos by Ray Hamill/

By Ray Hamill — There’s something to be said about playing your best at the business end of the season.

After the disappointment of barely losing out in the race for both the Big 5 and Charlie Lakin Tournament championships this spring, the Arcata Tigers are the last Big 5 team still standing and will play for a North Coast Section championship on Saturday night.

The Tigers, who have won NCS titles in two of the past five postseasons (2016 and 2019), will host Justin-Siena in the Division-4 final at the Arcata Ball Park at 7 p.m.

And Arcata head coach Troy Ghisetti is expecting a battle.

“They’re going to be a very good team,” the longtime coach said of the Braves. “They’ve got a couple of pitchers that can throw well, they’re solid up the middle and they swing it. 

“They play in a tough league (Vine Valley) and that prepares them for Division 4.”

The No. 5 seeds, who are 15-9 on the year, opened the postseason with a 10-5 win over Berean Christian at home, before winning 5-1 at Kelseyville and taking an exciting 11-10 win at home to Piedmont after seeing a big early lead disappear.

The Braves have won five NCS titles, with the last one coming in 2015.

The Tigers, meanwhile, are 23-6 and have surprised some people this season, which has been one of Ghisetti’s most impressive.

The Huskies edged them for both the Big 5 and Charlie Lakin titles, but the Tigers have found ways to win in the playoffs, while playing fundamentally sound on defense and getting timely hits from different players every game it seems.

“We’re starting to take care of the ball a little bit, and we’ve got to keep it up,” the coach said. “And we’re getting hitting. We’re not getting a lot of hitting, but a lot of different players are stepping up.”

The No. 3 seeds opened the postseason with a 15-10 win at Salesian, before beating Healdsburg 6-2 in the first-ever playoff game at their new field and following that with a thrilling 2-1 win over Del Norte on a walk-off hit by sophomore Anthony Ebert in Wednesday’s semifinal.

“We need to come out just like we have the last few games,” Ghisetti said. “We’ve got to be prepared to swing the bat.”

Ghisetti says he’s waiting to see who he will start on the mound until after he talks with his assistant coaches, but that all of his pitchers are ready to go.

A win on Saturday will see the Tigers advance to the NorCal tournament.

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