Senior night for the Del Norte baseball team didn’t go quite as the Warriors had hoped. Visiting McKinleyville took comand of the game with a big first at bat, scoring eight runs in the top of the first inning en route to a 12-2 win in five innings.
The Panthers benefitted from a couple Del Norte mistakes in the field early in the game, then McKinleyville got hot at the plate in the top of the first inning. The Panthers wracked up a total of six singles in the inning as they jumped out to an 8-0 lead.
“We made a few errors to start out and didn’t help out pitcher out at all,” said Del Norte head coach Travis Johnson. “I think it just kind of snowballed and gave McKinleyville a lot of confidence later in the inning and they really started smashing the ball.”
The Panthers looked poised to add to its lead in the top of the second inning with runners on second and third base with no outs, but the Del Norte defense came up big.
Senior second baseman Jorge Landeros managed to get to a sharply hit line drive up the middle just before it hit the dirt. Landeros then flipped the ball over to shortstop Luke Hardy who stepped on second base and fired to Giovanni Gonzalez at third base, getting both baserunners out for a triple play.
“It’s a play that you might not ever see in your lifetime,” Johnson said. “If there was a positive to come out of this game it was that we did get a triple play. That is pretty cool.”
Del Norte came back to load the bases in the second inning but couldn’t score any runs. A triple by senior Cole Harper in the third inning followed by a double by Janeiro finally got the Warriors on the scoreboard.
Luke Hardy lead off the bottom of the fourth inning with a single and managed to come around to score as well, but Del Norte couldn’t cut into McKinleyville’s early lead.
“It is hard to come back from 8-0 in the first inning,” Johnson said. “We still had a lot of game left but when you are mentally deflated it is hard to bring yourself back. We battled a few times and tried to put some runs on the board, but that was about all we can do.”
McKinleyville scored a run in the third inning and added three more in the fourth inning to push its lead to 12-2, which ended the game after the fifth inning due to the 10-run rule.
Johnson said he wished the Warriors could have sent their eight seniors off a little bit better in their last regular season home game.
“The seniors are a huge part of our team this year. They make up most of our starting lineup, so we honored them and their parents as much as we could,” he said. “It was a good night, but I wish the game would have gone better. I’m going to miss the heck out of these seniors when they are gone.”
With the loss, Del Norte falls to 12-9 overall, and 4-6 in the Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5. McKinleyville is just one game ahead in the league standings at 5-4, meaning the Warriors could still leapfrog the Panthers in the final standings with two wins in its doubleheader in McKinleyville on Saturday.
“Hopefully we can flush this game out of our minds and come back as a new team on Saturday,” Johnson said. “We need to come out with a little more intensity than we came out with today.”