By Ray Hamill — Fortuna’s Cody Collins has been named MVP of the Big 5 in baseball after leading the Fortuna Huskies to their first league title in 47 years.
Collins edged out teammate Cole Ayala for the award, but the latter received a well-deserved all-league nod, along with teammates Matt Letter, Drew Franklin and Rylan Lommori.
Collins, who will try to walk on at Sacramento State next season, enjoyed a phenomenal senior campaign at the plate, at shortstop and on the mound.
Collins and Ayala were a nightmare combo for opposing teams in the Big 5, and both were clutch.
Ayala, who played catcher and third base and also pitched, secured his place in Fortuna baseball history when he hit back-to-back home runs in his final two at-bats in the Big 5 to lift the Huskies to a thrilling come-from-behind league-clinching win over Eureka.
“You could have given the MVP to Cole and nobody would have questioned it,” Betts said. “Cole is a hell of a player.”
Ayala will play at Montana State-Billings next year.
Letter, meanwhile, stepped up his game in league and his versatility was key for this history-making team.
“He was the guy who played shortstop one game and second base the next, and would come into pitch, and being flexible and being able to play whatever role it was we needed that game was huge for us,” Betts said.
The reliable Franklin was a consistent presence on the mound for the league champs, but was also deceivingly effective at the plate, where he batted .296.
“Every time that kid pitched, he gave us a chance to win,” Betts said.
Lommori, who will play at Shasta next season, won the starting catcher job this spring and was as reliable a presence behind the plate as any player in the Big 5.
“He held down the catcher position for us all year and he was phenomenal,” the coach said. “We had games where not one ball went by Rylan, and we had wild pitches.”
All five Fortuna all-league players have left their mark on program history.
“Without those five guys, we don’t do what we did this year,” Betts said.
Joining the five Fortuna all-league selections are seven other players, including three from the North Coast Section champion Arcata Tigers.
Seniors Will Mager and Cedar Cline got the nod along with impressive sophomore Anthony Ebert.
And speaking of impressive sophomores, McKinleyville’s Kolbey Stolpe also has been named all-league, along with junior teammate Tyson Bragg.
Seniors Cooper Maxwell of Del Norte and Rogan Bode of Eureka, two of the best all-around athletes on the North Coast this year, round out the 11-player all-league team.
Maxwell and Bode were each also selected all-league in football.
Fortuna — Rogan Gans
Arcata — Chase Coleman, Ben Lukens, Miles Oliver, Finn Warner
McKinleyville — Tenoch Tapia, Pat Wilson
Del Norte — Ethan Thomas, Willie Bommelyn, Cole Blackburn, Brody Mattz, Preston Daniels
Eureka — Caden Vance, Cooper Ohlsen, Ty Crawford, Ean Savage