Strong defense lifts Steelheads to Rumble championship

Submitted photos – The NH Steelheads celebrate their first tournament win of the year this past weekend.

The Northern Humboldt Steelheads 10Us won a couple of high-scoring games against one of their local rivals over the weekend on their way to winning the Rumble in the Redwoods tournament in Eureka.

The young Steelheads defeated a team from Eugene 4-1 in Sunday’s final, after rallying to beat the Redwood Giants 10-9 in a semifinal showdown earlier in the day.

It was the Steelheads’ second win over the Giants in tournament play after handing them their first loss of the year on Saturday by a score of 16-14.

The tournament championship was the first of the year for the Steelheads, who stepped up their defense over the weekend with several players contributing.

They had to rally to win their semifinal, battling back from an early 8-3 deficit and scoring three runs in the top of the sixth and final inning.

“They never gave up,” manager Dusty McCullough said of his players. “They came back in the semifinal and had a never-say-die attitude.

“And that Giants team, they’re a really, really good team, and to beat a team like that twice in the same tournament showed the will power they have.”

The Steelheads, who are now 21-7, have been a good hitting team all year but they lifted their defense at this tournament and that was enough to give them a first tournament win.

Several players made big defensive plays in the final, including Rowdy Furber, who made a spectacular diving catch in the second inning, a play that gave this team some much-needed momentum, according to the manager.

Teammate Leo Ramirez also had a key defensive play with a big throw from right field to first base for an out, while Asher Avelar made multiple nice plays at second base to help anchor the defense.

Ty Wade also had a big final day.

The young pitcher got the save in the semifinal before starting the final and throwing a “great 4.1 innings,” according to his manager, on his way to the victory.

Relief pitcher Steven Watson closed out the final and kept the Eugene bats at bay.

Offensively in the championship game, Lucas Ball and Colton Hawkes each had a double, while Ramirez added a sac fly.

The semifinal was arguably the game of the tournament.

Hawkes got the start on the hill before being relieved late by Wade, who also had the game-winning hit and finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs.

Layne McCullough also had a big game at the plate and finished 2-for-2 with a pair of RBIs, while Watson was 1-for-2 with a double and two RBIs.

Furber and Tanner Baxter each also had a hit in the semifinal, with Furber also driving in one of his team’s runs.

And that wasn’t all Baxter did.

The young Steelhead player caught all four games in tournament play and helped set the tone defensively from behind the plate.

Earlier in tournament play, the Steelheads beat the Giants (16-14) and the host Six Rivers Kings (16-4), both on Saturday.

The impressive Chase Bachman threw 2.2 innings against the Kings and “pitched really well,” according to the manager, with Layne McCullough closing out the game.

“We’ve been a very, very good hitting team and defensively we played well this tournament,” Dusty McCullough said. “We showed up.”

The team is also coached by Kirby Hawkes, Brian Wade and Ryan Baxter.

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