The Humboldt Eagles 19U comfortably took care of business on opening day at the American Legion state tournament in Yountville early Friday afternoon, defeating West Hills out of San Diego 6-2.
Merek Sears pitched three hitless innings in the win, striking out six, as the Eagles took control of the game early, setting the tone on both sides of the ball.
Head coach Matt Tomlin said going into tournament play that his players needed to hit the ball better if they are to compete for a state title.
They did more than enough in Friday’s opener, finishing with six hits, including two each from Gannon Cyphers and Cody Emmons.
Emmons set an immediate tone by getting a base hit on the first pitch of the game.
He would score a few minutes later on Cyphers’ first hit of the game.
“I thought the hitting was good, against a pitcher that threw really hard,” Tomlin said. “I thought we hit the ball well and we were able to jump out to an early lead.”
The Eagles added three more runs in the top of the third, two of them on RBI hits from Jaden Gorge and Cyphers.
Hunter Davis drove in the third run of the inning to give the Eagles a commanding lead.
Sears was just as effective on the mound, throwing three strong innings before giving way to Kalebh Hill.
The two combined to strike out 10 West Hills batters in the opening five innings.
Sears was pulled from the game to keep him available for a possible Monday championship game if needed.
Tomlin admitted it was a risky move pulling him after three strong innings, but felt comfortable with the way his offense was playing and with the depth of his pitching staff.
Hill threw two innings, with C.J. Van Meter and Cyphers each also pitching in relief, as the four Eagles pitchers combined to hold West Hills to just four hits.
“I thought Merek flat out set the tone,” Tomlin said. “And Kalebh Hill came in and was also dominant.”
All three relief pitchers threw less than 30 pitches and will be available again on Saturday if needed.
The Eagles added runs in the fourth and seventh innings, and held the San Diego bats scoreless until late in the game.
Cameron Saso rounded out a six-hit team performance with a double, while Cyphers also had a double.
Four West Hills errors helped the Eagles’ cause.
All 18 Eagles players were utilized in the game, giving the entire roster the experience of playing in the state tournament on day one.
The Eagles will play Merced at 3 p.m. on Saturday, with Saso getting the start on the mound.
The state tournament features the top six teams in California in a double-elimination format.
Ray Hamill writes at humboldtsports.com, where you can read lots more about sports in Humboldt County.