DEL NORTE'S HDN AWARDS

Co-MVP

Allison Douglas, pitcher, junior

White Stars

Allison Douglas, pitcher, junior

Payten Healy, shortstop, senior

Tvshiina Jacobs, catcher, senior

Brook Nolan, third base, senior

Shelby Horner, second base, junior

Honorable mention

Antonia Alcala, right field, senior

Maddy Burtchell, first base, junior

Laycee Coopman, center field, junior

Following one of the most successful two year runs in any sport at Del Norte High School, the Warrior softball team came together one last time last week for a banquet to wrap up the season and pass out the long list of Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 League awards garnered by many of the players after an undefeated league championship.

Junior pitcher Allison Douglas was named the co-Big 5 MVP by the league’s coaches this year, sharing the honor with Eureka senior pitcher Alyssa Jimenez. Lorenzi said the initial vote for the league MVP was split, followed by a vote to award co-MVPs.

“My argument was (Douglas) was 12-0 and she beat the Eureka pitcher twice, their argument was that (Jimenez) had more shutouts during league,” said Del Norte head coach Pablo Lorenzi. “It basically came down to a co-MVP, which is fine.”

As the co-MVP Douglas was also one of five Del Norte players to receive White Stars from the league this year. Senior shortstop Payten Healy earned the honor for the fourth year in a row; senior catcher Tvshiina Jacobs and senior third basemen Brook Nolan both picked up their second White Stars; while junior second basemen Shelby Horner received her first White Star this season.

Senior right fielder Antonia Alcala, junior centerfielder Laycee Coopman, and junior first baseman Maddy Burchell were all honorable mention selections.

Together, the Warrior softball team has become one of the most successful teams over a two year span in the history of the school. The Warrriors have had some rough luck in the North Coast Section Division IV championship game over that span — winning the game in 2017 3-1 over St. Mary’s only to have the win later vacated by the NCS due to impermissible warm ups, and falling 4-0 to St. Joseph Notre Dame in the NCS championship this June — but their overall accomplishments and postseason successes cannot be denied.

“The last game was not a happy moment obviously because we didn’t get the title, but it is kind of bittersweet,” Lorenzi said. “How many teams at Del Norte High School have gone back-to-back to the final game? I can’t think of anybody.”

The Warriors have gone a combined 42-15 over the last year two years.

“That is a pretty big accomplishment when you really think about that,” Lorenzi said. “The overall success that they have had has basically come through the hard work that they have done since they were little. They played ASA up in Brookings with the Surfside team. They have pretty much all stuck together as a group and hopefully they will remember this as a group — starting from way back when and going through these last two seasons, where they have been successful at the level they have wanted to be successful at.”

The Warriors did it all with a dedication to defense that has been largely unmatched by their competition.

That all starts with co-MVP Douglas, who picked up her second straight White Star this season. Douglas pitched nearly every inning all season, only taking a break for an inning here or there in non-league games. She finished with a perfect 12-0 record in the Big 5 this season, and never allowed more than four runs in a single game.

“She is consistent. In league she threw every single pitch for us — even when she was hurt she threw every pitch,” Lorenzi said. “We went into the last doubleheader against McKinleyville and she was hurt but she still performed. She just has mental toughness, which is something that we have been working with her on for the last two years.”

Douglas may not have the strongest arm in the league this year, but she more than made up for the velocity with her savvy, control and by making use of a top-notch defense.

“Her defense really helped her out, and they made plays behind her,” Lorenzi said. “Ally isn’t a strikeout pitcher. She isn’t going to overpower you. We try to fitness batters into hitting the pitch that we want them to hit and let the defense do the work. It has played us well for the last two years, so we weren’t going to go away from that. She worked hard, but at the same time her defense worked a lot behind her. That was really a good combination of success with good pitching and good defense.”

Behind the plate catching every one of those pitches was Jacobs. Although Jacobs was one of the Warriors’ better hitters this season and came up with some of the biggest base hits of the year, including a 2-RBI walkoff hit in the NCS semifinals, she is really something special defensively.

“She is probably one of the best catchers that Del Norte has had as far as blocking balls and keeping them in front of her,” Lorenzi said. “Nobody stole on her — I think for the whole season she only had two people steal a base on her, and nobody stole on her in league.”

Jacobs also played a big hand in Douglas’ success on the rubber, working with Lorenzi to call the pitches.

“I would relay pitches into her and sometimes she would say that’s probably not a good idea right now, knowing that Ally wasn’t throwing that pitch very well that day,” Lorenzi said. “We did everything with non-verbal communication. It was all hand signals and shoulder shrugs and things like that. She just got the job done. That is a person that you really want behind the plate.”

Del Norte also had perhaps the slickest fielding infield in the HDN this year, led by one of the most decorated athletes in Del Norte history in Healy. In addition to being a starter and White Star-winning short stop for the Warriors for the past four years, Healy was also a four year starter and two-time Big 5 MVP in volleyball, and a four year starter on the basketball court as well.

Healy recently signed to continue her softball career in college at Willamete University.

“Defensively Payten was the anchor to the infield basically,” Lorenzi said. “She is a four year White Star recipient. There are not very many athletes that can say they are a four year letterman in a sport and she accomplished that and more. She is going to go on to bigger and better things, which is great. We were all happy to be a part of that.”

Over at third base Nolan once again displayed the strong hitting and fielding skills that earned her a White Star in 2017, but Lorenzi is particularly impressed with how far she has come mentally since then.

“Brook grew tremendously this season in her mental focus and just being a lot tougher,” he said. “She didn’t let things get to her and she was able to shrug things off quickly and get to the next play. There is a big difference between skill level and mental skill level and that is where she drastically improved this year.”

Lorenzi pointed to Nolan’s ability to bunt as a prime example of that mental toughness.

“When we needed a bunt down she put it down,” he said. “I think there was only one time where she was not successful, and basically she came in and said, ‘That won’t happen again.’”

Junior second basemen Shelby Horner picked up her first White Star this season in her first year as a full-time starter at the position.

“Shelby turned more double plays than anybody else in the league. On defense she is one of those quiet killers, basically,” Lorenzi said. “There is nothing fancy and nothing that really stands out, but she gets the job done. She turned three double plays in one game this season just on fielding ground balls, tagging the runner and throwing it to first base. It is a tremendous boost to a defense when someone can do that consistently without bobbling it.”

Although Horner was near the end of the Del Norte batting order this year, Lorenzi said he thought she was also a strong hitter for the Warriors who always seemed to put the ball in play when the team needed a hit.

“She just goes out and tries to do her job to the best of her ability,” Lorenzi said. “She has another year ahead of her, and I think she is going to have a really good season.”

Although Del Norte softball’s roster has looked pretty much the same for the past two years, change is on the horizon with six seniors, including five starters, set to graduate on Friday.

“We should have at least seven that should be returning,” Lorenzi said. “It is going to be tough for them because we are losing some critical positions and some critical elements. It is kind of up to them and how hard they want to work. We can say those were our best years, sit back, and take our lumps. Or we can go after it and say, ‘We are the defending league champions and we are going to try to come back and defend our crown.’”

With players like Douglas, Horner, Coopman and Burchell set to return, Lorenzi sees the makings of another strong team next year.

“I think it is more of a mental challenge then a physical challenge because they have the physical skills,” he said. “We are going to have to get some new recruits though, and without having a JV team this year that makes it a lot more difficult. We will see what happens though.”

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com .

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