By Bill Choy

Triplicate Sports Editor

A first-round bye and a home game are nice ways to start the playoffs.

On Sunday, the Del Norte High softball team earned the bye in the North Coast Section Class 2-A Redwood Empire division.

On Thursday, the Warriors, the No. 3 seed, will face No. 2 seed Drake High of San Anselmo in Marin County in Crescent City at 5:30 p.m.

Del Norte earned the home game because they won their conference, while Drake did not.

The only other Big 5 team to make the softball playoffs, Arcata, is set to play today at Healdsburg.

If Del Norte wins on Thursday, they would play in the finals on Saturday.

The Pirates bring a 15-10 record, while Del Norte is 21-3 for the year and won the Big 5 crown with a 10-2 mark.

andquot;It feels really good to get the bye and play at home,andquot; assistant coach Delores Markussen said. andquot;It makes it a lot easier for us to get to the championship gameandquot;

She added it's nice not to travel the long distance to the Bay Area for the game and to have the support of the home crowd.

Senior McKinnze Holden, one of the team's pitchers, is ecstatic to be in the playoffs. In her freshman year, the Warriors faced Drake in the playoffs and won the game.

andquot;I'm excited, definitely,andquot; she said. andquot;I hope we win and go to the championship.andquot;

The days leading up to the game will be spent practicing, Markussen said, saying it's a wonderful luxury to have the time to work on preparing to play the Pirates and get the team andquot;mentally preparedandquot; for a tough team.

This is the first year senior Gabby Navarro has played high school softball. A member of the basketball and soccer teams, this is the farthest she has gone in any high school sport.

andquot;It feels very good to have made it this far,andquot; she said. andquot;It's a great way to go out.andquot;

A huge help for the squad was having an additional game played against Gold Beach, Ore. on Friday.

The matchup between two playoff teams ended in a 1-0 Del Norte win in 12 innings. Markussen said it gave the team an opportunity to face tough competition and a terrific pitcher, which is what they will be facing in the NCS playoffs.

andquot;That's the best thing that could have happened for our team,andquot; she said

Sophomore pitcher Alyssa Bergquist pitched all 12 innings on Friday. She is scheduled to pitch on Thursday and said the Gold Beach game was a valuable tool for the Warriors.

andquot;It showed we have a lot of endurance and can play a long game and win,andquot; she said.

There will be an $8 charge for adults and a $5 charge for children for the game.

Markussen said the money goes to the NCS to pay for things like balls and umpires for the playoffs.