The Northern Humboldt Giants played five games in five days at the 17 and under American Legion Area 1 Tournament. Although it was a double elimination competition, nobody could knock off the Giants as the squad, which is made up of players from each of the Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 schools, topped Chico 8-0 in six innings on Sunday in the championship game.
Northern Humboldt opened the tournament with a 9-4 victory over Chico, followed by an 11-2 win over Davis. The Giants defeated Redding 9-0 in a battle of the last unbeaten teams in the tournament. Northern Humboldt then beat Davis again 2-1 in 11 innings — the closest game of the tournament — before topping Chico in the title game. That leaves the Giants with an impressive overall record of 36-3 this summer.
“These guys have done this all year. They just came prepared,” said Northern Humboldt coach Troy Ghisetti, who is also the head coach of Arcata High School. “I thought last night we played a little tight, but these guys were loose (today). They came out and took care of a very good Chico team. (Merek) Sears did exactly like all of our other pitchers this whole tournament it seems— going up there and dominating, getting ahead and letting the defense work.”
The Giants pitching staff was dominant throughout the tournament. Northern Humboldt allowed just six runs in five games throughout the Area 1 Tournament, including just one unearned run in the last three games. Sears wrapped up that pitching performance with six strikeouts, while allowing just four hits. He retired the first 11 Chico batters that he faced to earn a shutout in the championship game.
While the Giants’ pitching and defense were superb all summer, the Northern Humboldt hitters were also working hard throughout the tournament. The Giants ended up with 39 total runs in three games.
In the second game against Davis, played on Saturday in Arcata, the Giants struggled to get runners on base against one of the top pitchers in the tournament.
“That was a great pitcher that we faced against Davis, and he did an excellent job,” Ghisetti said. “But this team, they don’t get down. They just continue to battle. We ran ourselves out of a couple innings there by not being smart on the bases, but they stayed in there and played good defense behind it and never got down.”
By the time the championship game against Chico rolled around on Sunday the Giants bats were back to normal. After a scoreless first inning, Northern Humboldt scored a run in the second and fifth innings, while scoring two runs apiece in the third, fourth and sixth innings.
“I felt like we played really well,” said Del Norte’s Cole Harper, who played right field for Northern Humboldt this summer. “It never stopped. We just kept going and kept going and it paid off right here.”
Harper was one of four Del Norte varsity baseball players on the Northern Humboldt roster this summer, along with Ryan Janeiro, Klevon Welch and Luke Hardy. The four Warriors teamed up with players from McKinleyville, Arcata, Eureka and Fortuna.
“The great thing about these guys is they have been together for the last three years and there is not an odd guy on this whole team,” Ghisetti said. “They all step up and they take hold of their roles. When they are out there playing it is all 17 or 18 of them against the other team. It has been a joy for the coaching staff to be around these kids.”
The Giants are one of several American Legion teams in Humboldt County every year. Northern Humboldt is the first team from the county to win the Area 1 tournament in quite some time, however. Ghisetti said he wasn’t sure exactly how long it has been since the Area 1 championship came to Humboldt County, but he asked an American Legion Area 1 official, who told him “it has been a while.”
Harper, playing in his third summer with the Northern Humboldt team, started all five games for the Giants at the Area 1 tournament. He was also one of Northern Humboldt’s most prolific hitters. Harper finished the tournament with eight hits, including a double and a solo home run, five more walks, eight runs scored and three runs batted in.
Welch started one game for the Giants and recorded a single and a walk, while also scoring a run. Janeiro came into the game as a substitute a couple times during the tournament and ended up with a single, a double a walk and two runs scored to show for it.
The Area 1 title qualifies Northern Humboldt for the American Legion U17 state tournament, but Ghisetti said he was uncertain about whether the team would attend the state tournament since it wasn’t on the team’s original schedule and several players have conflicts.
“It has been fun playing with these guys,” Harper said. “I don’t know if they will be going on to the next tournament, but I have the fair to go to. It has been fun playing with them though. We did everything that we could.”
Reach Michael Zogg at firstname.lastname@example.org.