The McKinleyville Panthers showed no ill-affects from a 12-day layoff, comfortably taking care of visiting Kennedy 10-0 in five innings in their North Coast Section Division-IV softball quarterfinal on Wednesday.
The win sets up a semifinal showdown at home to Cardinal Newman on Friday evening at 5 p.m., as part of a doubleheader at the school, with the Panthers baseball team also hosting their semifinal on Friday at 5 p.m.
Cardinal Newman defeated the Arcata girls 9-1 in quarterfinal action on Wednesday, ending a breakout season for the Tigers, who last week posted their first NCS playoff win in seven years.
The Panthers, who had not played since the Charles Lakin H-DNL Tournament championship in early May, wasted little time taking control of the game, opening up a 5-0 lead after just two innings and scoring in all four innings they went to bat.
“They were hungry for a game,” McKinleyville head coach Shanna McCracken said.
In the pitcher’s circle, McKenzie Gonsalves was in control throughout, tossing a two-hitter and striking out 11.
“She looked good,” McCracken said of Gonsalves, who had struggled a little down the stretch of the season. “She’s been working hard and she definitely wanted this game. She wanted to finish it.
“Her velocity definitely stayed up today. She’s got the drive right now. She wants to be in the circle.”
Gonsalves got plenty of run support from a deep lineup, with 10 different McKinleyville players combining for 12 hits, as the home team never looked in doubt of winning this one, albeit against some questionable defense from the visiting No. 10 seeds.
McKenna Turner and Lily Thiesfeld led the way at the plate for Mack with a pair of hits each, including a double by Turner.
Thiesfeld also drove home two runs.
The No. 2 seed Panthers also had doubles from Ashley Ballew and Olivia Alves, with the latter also driving in a run, while Jaycee Morais and Grace Rosebrook each had a hit and two RBIs.
Gonsalves, Jada Bailey, Lexi White and Allison McCarthy rounded out the 12-hit performance.
It was the second straight year the Mack girls got the better of Kennedy in the NCS playoffs, although this time they figured out the visiting pitcher a lot quicker.
“We talked about that in practice, and they adjusted real well,” McCracken said.
With the win, the Panthers are now 23-3.
Cardinal Newman is 20-4.
With No. 1 seed Cloverdale losing to St. Mary’s in quarterfinal action, the Panthers are now the highest seed remaining and guaranteed to host as long they continue winning.
Arcata 1, Cardinal Newman 9
A memorable season for the Arcata Tigers came to an end on Wednesday in a 9-1 loss at Cardinal Newman.
Errors in windy conditions cost the Tigers, who fell behind by four runs in the opening inning and trailed by seven after two.
Makayla Bernald took the loss in the circle, striking out six.
“We had two critical errors with two outs,” Arcata head coach Teresa Stavert said. “The wind played a big role as the outfield had trouble tracking the ball.”
Infielders Maria Morehose and Bella Volz-Broughton each made several big defensive plays in the loss.
Bernald, Claire Broadman and Lola Renteria each had also a hit for Arcata, which closes out a breakthrough season with a record of 17-10, their best campaign in over a decade.
“Cardinal Newman is a good team,” Stavert said. “We are young and learning.
“I thank my seniors for turning this program around and my younger players now know what we need to do.”
Ray Hamill writes at humboldtsports.com, where you can read lots more about sports in Humboldt County.