McKinleyville All-Stars prevail in exciting District championship

Photos by Ray Hamill/ – Hudson “The Huddy Badger” Kapko delivers a pitch during Thursday’s championship game in Arcata.

By Ray Hamill — The quality of youth baseball on the North Coast was on full display on Thursday night with just one run separating the top two 12U teams in the championship of the District 26 Little League All-Star Tournament at Arcata.

McKinleyville’s Carson Hicks scored the only run of the game in the top of the first inning in what was a great pitchers’ duel, with the Mack All-Stars holding on for a 1-0 win over Eel River.

McKinleyville’s Hudson Kapko and Eel River’s Teyler Bailey both were outstanding and provided a fitting conclusion to an entertaining six-day tournament.

Kapko, fondly referred to as “The Huddy Badger,” allowed just three base hits in a complete game, while Bailey was equally impressive and allowed just four.

Both pitchers also got plenty of help from their defenses, with several big plays made by both All-Star squads.

“There was excellent pitching by both sides,” McKinleyville head coach Quintin Carper said. “And the defensive play was there on both sides.”

Both catchers — McKinleyville’s Cabella Carper and Eel River’s Brandon Long — helped set the tone on defense as they continue to play with a composure beyond their years.

“Hats off to Cabella Carper and Mason Long,” Eel River head coach Brandon Long said. “I feel they’re the best two (Little League) catchers maybe in all of Northern California. They’re like artists back there.”

Hicks led off the game with a walk and would make his way around the bases to give his team an early one-run lead.

It was all McKinleyville needed.

With Kapko and his defense holding strong, Eel River had just four players on base all day and none of them would advance past first.

Kapko, who did not walk anyone, struck out seven Eel River players, including the final out to seal the championship.

The young standout also had one of his team’s four hits, leading off the fourth inning with a single.

Cabella Carper followed that with a hard-hit double to give McKinleyville runners on second and third, but Bailey and his teammates got out of the jam to remain in touch.

Donny Chivrell and Everett Gruetzmacher each also had base hits for the champions.

“I thought (Kapko) pitched phenomenal, like he has all year,” Quintin Carper said. “And I thought Bella caught well, like she has all year.”

Quintin Carper also praised the play of the outstanding Bailey.

“Their kid was tough,” the coach said. “He kept us off balance. Our bats just didn’t come around.

“I thought the difference was we just had more base runners than they did, and we worked the bases.” 

Submitted photo

Chivrell led McKinleyville with five base hits in their three tournament wins and also dominated on the mound in a relief appearance late in the first game.

Brylon Smith, Breyden Brock and Tyson Marshall each also pitched well for the champions on the big stage.

The Mack All-Stars will now turn their attention to the Section tournament in Yuba City as they look to continue a successful and impressive run for the local little league association.

“They’re just grinders,” the coach said of his players. “They play as a team really well, and they play a lot of extra games together with their travel team. They’ve played a lot and practiced a lot together since they were nine or 10, and I think they all kind of understand their role.”

There’s every reason to believe these young All-Stars can continue to shine at the next tournament, which gets under way on July 13.

“We’ve got a bunch of ways we can beat you,” the coach said. “We’ve got a good bunt game and our team speed is really good.”

They also have a strong infield.

Cabella Carper is one of the most consistent and talented young catchers in the area — “she’s a wall back there,” her coach said — while first baseman Blake Carper and Brock at third base provide reliable gloves at the corners and both made some big plays in the championship game.

The middle infield pairing of shortstop Teoh Arredondo and Hicks at second both also have impressed once again this year.

“(Hicks) has been a stud,” Quintin Carper said of the second baseman, who has had to fight some recent injuries. “He was banged up but he battled it out.”

And he scored the winning run in the District championship game.

Rounding out a very deep roster, outfielders Jude Scher and Mikey Shumard both had an impact on defense and at the plate.

Shumard, according to his coach, had seen high-pitch at-bats to frustrate opposing pitchers, as well as some timely hits, while Schuer laid down some key bunts for base hits in tough situations.

“I think everyone top to bottom had a huge impact playing as a team,” Quintin Carper said.

For more on the Eel River All-Stars, see Eel River All-Stars push rivals all the way in season finale  …

1 reply »

  1. Reads impressive, liking the nod personally to the 2 catchers of both teams… catchers are really like football offensive coordinators to the quarterbacks, real heady and tactful thinkers, but play like that hard-hitting Ronnie Lot or Sean Taylor…

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