The Del Norte baseball team started out its last series of the season by grabbing its first league win, as a pair of seniors came up big in their final home game in Crescent City on Wednesday as senior catcher Justin Goudelock helped the Warriors come from behind with a walk-off single for a 7-6 win.
Del Norte’s season came to a close in Fortuna on Friday, as the Warriors dropped a pair of hard-fought games against the Huskies 7-1 and 7-6 to drop back into fifth place in the Big 5.
Although Fortuna ended up getting the better of the Warriors in the series, Johnson thought Del Norte finished the year on a high note.
“I thought the kids played with a lot more emotion and intensity than they played with all year,” said Del Norte head coach Travis Johnson. “They really wanted these last three games, and they played like they wanted them. I’m pretty proud of the way that they played. The pitchers threw strikes, everybody hit, and it was a good series.”
The Warriors picked up their first Big 5 win of the season in dramatic fashion.
Wednesday’s game in Crescent City was senior night for Del Norte, as the last home game of the regular season, and a pair of Warrior seniors came up big in leading the team to its first league win.
Senior Sebastian Puente pitched a complete seven innings against Fortuna, giving up six runs but only two earned runs.
“In the first inning I was a little worried, because they got several hits in a row and scored three runs,” Johnson said. “After that he settled down and everybody settled down behind him. He threw strikes and they made plays. He just did a great job. That was probably about as good as I have ever seen him pitch from the second inning on.”
The Huskies ended up scoring two earned runs in the top of the first inning as they raced out to a 3-0 lead, but Del Norte had an answer.
AJ Schultz and Giovanni Gonzalez lead off the bottom of the inning by drawing walks, and both Warriors stole a base to reach third and second base respectively. Tanner Forkner then brought both teammates home with a two-out, two-RBI double to pull within 3-2.
Del Norte took its first lead of the game in the bottom of the second inning when Jared Dixon and OJ Calleja drew back-to-back walks to kick off the at bat Both came around to score on a fielding error boy Fortuna for a 4-3 Warrior lead.
The Warriors continued their offensive roll in the third inning when Puente started things off with a single, and came around to score on a two-out single by Dixon.
Del Norte hit a bump defensively in the fourth inning when Fortuna scratched out back-to-back two-out singles to start a rally. The Huskies brought a couple runs across the plate on a fielding error in the next at bat to tie the game at 5-5, then retook the lead with another run crossing the plate on a dropped-third strike in the next at bat.
Trailing 6-5 and with the Huskies still threatening to score, the Warriors managed to come up with a big play to stay within striking distance. Fortuna rocketed a single into centerfield in its next at bat but junior Kaden Ritter fielded the ball after a bounce and fired the ball in to home plate with a Husky baserunner trying to score from second base. Senior catcher Goudelock fielded the ball cleanly in front of the plate, then turned and made a diving tag just before the runner reached the plate for the third out of the inning.
After falling behind once again, Del Norte managed to mount yet another comeback.
“They just didn’t give up today,” Johnson said. “I think they really wanted to win this game — our last home game, and senior night. They just did a good job battling, trying to get guys on, and getting them over.”
Calleja reached first base on a fielder’s choice after Dixion led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a single. AJ Schultz then tied the game up with a high fly ball to centerfield that the Huskies misplayed in the wind — letting the ball fall to the ground for an RBI single.
After Puente retired the Fortuna batters in order for the second straight inning in the top of the seventh, the Warriors knew they had an opportunity to pull out the victory.
“I told them, ‘We are the home team — we have the hammer at the end. If we score a run then we are done. So push on across and we will go home.’ And they did,” Johnson said.
The bottom of the seventh inning started slowly for the Warriors, with a fly out to centerfield and a ground out for two quick outs. But Forkner was hit in the helmet by the first pitch in the next at bat to give the Warriors a baserunner. The Fortuna pitcher attempted to pick off Forkner at firstbase, but overthrew bag and the Warriors’ sophomore took second and third base before the Huskies could recover.
“The big fella was busting his butt around second to get to third,” Johnson said. “It was definitely good hustle on Tanner’s part to get into position to score the winning run. That was really good.”
Shortly after reaching third base, Goudelock hit a Texas Leaguer that managed to land safely in shallow right field for a walk-off single, allowing Forkner to come home with the game winning run and igniting a celebration for the Warriors.
“That’s fitting,” Johnson said. “For a senior to hit the winning run in — it couldn’t have happened any better. I’m happy for him.”
Although Del Norte ended up making a few costly errors that led to unearned runs, Johnson said he thought the team’s pitching and defense really kept them in the game all day long.
“They played a really good defensive game,” Johnson said. “Hits were hard to come by, but we got just enough to get what we needed. The kids showed a lot of heart in the end, coming back with two outs. It was a fun game.”
On Friday Johnson thought Del Norte continued to play well, but the Warriors struggled to find consistent offense in the first game of the day, as Fortuna pulled ahead 7-0, and held on for a 7-1 win.
“I thought we played pretty dang good. In the first game they got some timely hits to score some runs,” Johnson said. “We played good defense, but we just couldn’t hit the ball.”
In the second game on Friday Del Norte took a 2-0 lead when Schultz and Gonzalez came around to score on a base hit by Riter. The Huskies quickly answered back with four runs in the bottom of the inning.
Del Norte bounced back in the top of the fifth inning when Schultz, Gonzalez and Ritter all scored to give the Warriors a 5-4 advantage.
Fortuna tied the game back up with a run in the fifth inning, and took a 6-5 lead in the sixth inning but Ritter managed to score a run in the top of the seventh inning on an RBI single by Calleja to tie the score up at 6-6.
In almost a mirror image of Wednesday’s game, Fortuna managed to break the 6-6 tie in the bottom of the seventh inning with a two-out rally and a walk off hit for the 7-6 win.
“We came out and jumped out in front of them early, and hit the ball really well,” Johnson said. “The score went back and fourth after the first inning. It just came down to them having the last at bat, like we did (on Wednesday) and they scored the winning run.”
With the season at an end, Del Norte finishes the season with a 1-11 record in Big 5 games. Win’s have been hard to come by for the junior-heavy team. The Warriors have just two senior players in their regular rotation, while also playing two sophomores and a freshman in most games.
“They try hard. They were a good group of kids this year.,” Johnson said. “They just need to get a little more fire under their belt and they will be good for next year. They are young, but they will be the older team next year. So hopefully they can do well. It was the last game for the seniors. I hope they had a good year, and they succeed in their future endeavors — whatever they do.”
Reach Michael Zogg at firstname.lastname@example.org .