Bring on Eureka.
The Panthers have done just about everything they could so far, and now the only thing standing between them and a first league title in over a decade is Eureka.
On Saturday, they swept a doubleheader at home to Fortuna, 11-0 and 6-1, improving to 8-1 in the Big 5 with just three games remaining, all against Eureka.
The Loggers are 6-0 and must play Arcata in a three-game series before matching up with the Panthers.
“This is where we wanted to be. This is the situation we wanted to be in,” McKinleyville head coach Scott St. John said. “We’ve given ourselves a chance and that’s all you can ask for.”
In other baseball action on Saturday, Ferndale posted a pair of shutout wins at home to Hoopa, winning 10-0 and 18-8 at Ferndale.
The Wildcats are now 6-4 in the Little 4 and 7-9 overall.
Also in the Little 4, St. Bernard’s and South Fork split a doubleheader.
Fortuna 0, McKinleyville 11
Fortuna 1, McKinleyville 6
The Panthers got some quality pitching and hitting from throughout their lineup on the way to the sweep.
Corbin Eichin pitched five innings of one-hit ball in the opener, walking two and striking out six as the home team ended the game early.
“He kind of had a shaky first inning, but he settled down and was pretty dominant throughout,” St. John said of the sophomore.
Kyler Carr was just as effective in the nightcap, allowing four hits in six innings and striking out six.
“It was probably the best I’ve seen him throw in the two years I’ve been there,” St. John said of the junior. “He really stepped up.”
Carr also had a say at the plate, finishing 2-for-5 with a triple and two RBIs in the opener, while Dustin Ireland had a hit and three RBIs.
Regan Wolfe also had a hit and drove home two runs, with Eichin, Isaac Puzz and Lance Lally each adding a hit and an RBI.
“We stressed all week how important this week was for us, that we needed to get a sweep to be in position going up against Eureka,” St. John said. “I was impressed they answered the call.”
Branson Gans had Fortuna’s only hit, while Dylan McNeill allowed five hits in three innings for the loss on the mound.
In game two, Cameron Saso, Carr and Lally each had two hits, including a double and an RBI by Carr and Lally.
Puzz also had a hit and an RBI, with Wolfe and Ireland each driving in a run.
Lally also pitched the final inning, holding the Huskies scoreless to preserve the win.
The Fortuna bats did a better job in game two, with Gans again instrumental, capping a good day with two more hits.
Gabe Sandberg also had a double and his team’s lone RBI, while Caleb Crawley added a double and Daeden Taylor and Riley Harris had a hit each.
With the losses, the Huskies dropped to 0-9 in the Big 5 and 3-14 overall.
McKinleyville is now 16-1 overall.
Hoopa 0, Ferndale 10, five innings
Hoopa 8, Ferndale 18, six innings
The Wildcats got solid pitching performances from starters Garrett Christiansen and Jenner Christiansen on the way to a comfortable sweep over winless Hoopa.
Garrett Christiansen pitched the opener, allowing one hit in four innings while striking out eight and walking two.
Jenner Christiansen was just as effective in the nightcap, tossing three innings of no-hit ball while striking out seven and walking two.
“The important thing is we got two league wins,” Ferndale head coach Justin Andersen said. “I thought our starting pitchers did well.”
Offensively, Shaun Leonardo had a big day, finishing with seven hits and six RBIs while Jenner Christiansen helped his own cause in game two with four hits and four RBIs.
Landon Gomes also was 2-for-4 with four RBIs in the second game, while Ronnie Lockett was 2-for-3 with three RBIs and two runs in the opener.
Austin Hughes added a hit and three RBIs in the same game.
On senior day, the Cats played many of their seniors and reserves in game two.
“It was nice to get everyone in and get everyone an at-bat,” Andersen said.
The Cats travel to Fortuna on Tuesday.
Hoopa dropped to 0-10 in the Little 4 and 0-13 overall.
Ray Hamill writes at humboldtsports.com, where you can read lots more about sports in Humboldt County.