The Del Norte baseball team kicked off Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 play a day early, in order to avoid rain in McKinleyville predicted for today. The Warriors started league play with a 9-0 loss to the Panthers Tusesday after wrapping up its non-league season with a 2-2 finish at the ACA Tournament in Redding on Thursday through Saturday.

The Warriors Big 5 opener started out as a defensive struggle as neither team was able to score through the first five innings. In the bottom of the fifth inning that all changed, however.

“Through the top of five innings things were great,” said Del Norte head coach Travis Johnson. “It was 0-0, then all of the sudden in the bottom of the fifth inning everything that they put into play was a base hit. They scored eight runs in that inning and there were no errors. It was just one of those games.”

Although the final score ended up fairly one-sided, Johnson thought Del Norte played a pretty good all around game.

“Our pitching was great again and the defense played good,” Johnson said. “We hit the ball hard — we really did — but it was just right at players. We couldn’t find a spot. I thought everybody played a good game.”

Del Norte got off to a slow start to its tournament in Redding with a pair of losses on Thursday. The Warriors started the day with an 11-4 loss to Lassen, which went on to finish as the runner up in the tournament.

Del Norte stayed close with Lassen in the early going as both teams scored a run in the first inning. The Warriors added another run in the third but trailed Lassen 4-2 by the end of the inning.

The Grizzlies were able to break the game open in the fourth and fifth innings as they used a home run in each frame to put up seven more runs. That gave Lassen jump a 11-4 lead, which it held through a scoreless final two innings.

“Lassen was a good team, but we were playing them tough until the fourth inning,” Johnson said. “They hit a couple home runs and seperated from us. They are a good hitting team, with good pitching.”

After falling to Lassen, Del Norte had a quick turnaround before playing Anderson in their second game of the day on Thursday.

Anderson jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third inning, and tacked on another run in the fifth. The Warriors got a couple runs back in the seventh inning with a two-run home run by senior Sebastian Puente, but Anderson managed to stop the Del Norte rally and hold on for the 3-2 win.

“There wasn’t a lot of time to get ready before the game. Everybody just kind of grabbed their stuff and ran all the way to the other side of the complex,” Johnson said. “We couldn’t get anything going, but our pitching was great. AJ (Schultz) did a great job, but we couldn’t get any bats going until Puente hit the home run, and that is how it ended.”

After a pair of losses on Thursday, the Warriors battled back with a 4-0 win over Willows on Friday.

OJ Calleja put the Warriors in front with an RBI double in the first inning to bring Schultz in to score. Schultz then picked up an RBI double in the third inning to score Jared Dixon. Puente and Giovanni Gonzalez both reached base safely and came around to score in the fourth inning.

“Everybody game out hitting the ball and we were pitching well,” Johnson said. “It was just a really good game for us. Everything clicked.”

The Warriors kept the momentum going on Saturday as they again jumped out to a big lead on their way to a 6-2 victory over Hamilton.

Del Norte went ahead 3-0 in the first inning, then the Warriors doubled their lead with three more runs in the fifth inning. Hamilton was held scoreless until they scratched out two runs in the seventh inning.

“It was the same thing as Friday,” Johnson said. “We jumped ahead 3-0 in the first inning and just never looked back.”

After Tuesday’s game in McKinleyville, Del Norte sits at 4-5-1 overall with a 0-1 record in HDN Big 5 play. Del Norte will be back in action on Saturday hosting a doubleheader against McKinleyville, starting at 11 a.m. at Three Amigos Field.

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com .

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