The Del Norte softball team pulled out its first series win of the season this week, starting with a 6-4 victory on senior night on Wednesday in Crescent City. The Warriors then went to Fortuna and secured fourth place in the league with a 17-8 victory in game one, but the Huskies managed a come-from behind 13-12 victory in game two.
“The girls had fun. It was a fun series to end on — Fortuna is a fun team to play,” said Del Norte head coach Jackie Heuberger. “We are similar in a lot of ways. We both had innings where we made mistakes, and innings where we played really well, both teams only really have one pitcher, and we just kind of battled back and fourth.”
Del Norte started the series against Fortuna on Wednesday with a different lineup than the Warriors have used all season. The single game in Crescent City was senior night for Del Norte and all eight of the Warriors seniors were placed into the starting lineup along with junior McKenzy Fernandes.
“We started all of our seniors so that they could play in their last home game,” Heuberger said. “So we made some adjustments with our defense and our lineup. We put Kaleya Sanchez at shortstop, which she has played a few times this year. Then Kaia (Langlois) went to center and we had Kayah Ray and Rachel Peters play right and left field. Those two aren’t usually starters, but they got to play the whole game. I think the girls had fun, and that was really a priority for us today. We wanted to enjoy our last game at home, they got to play in front of their families, and we won.”
Del Norte’s senior-laden lineup got off to a quick start and never trailed as it held on for the 6-4 victory.
“I’m glad that we got the win on senior night — it was a lot of fun,” said senior second basemen Shelby Horner. “We had a lot of fun playing with all the seniors on the field, and it was just a good time and a good memory to have for the seniors before we go.”
Del Norte got off to a quick start in the game as Laycee Coopman and Fernandes both reached base, and came around to score on a fielding error by the Huskies two batter later for a quick 2-0 lead.
Fortuna cut the Warriors lead in half by scoring a run in the top of the second inning, but Del Norte’s offense continued to roll in the early going.
In the bottom of the second inning Horner, Kaleya Sanchez, Coopman, Fernandes, and Langlois combined for five one-out singles in a row for three more runs, pushing the Warriors lead up to 5-1.
“I think we came into the game with a lot more confidence than we usually do,” Coopman said. “Sometimes we come in flat-footed, but today we came in really ready to play and ready to be here. We just had more fun than usual.”
Fortuna cut into Del Norte’s lead in the top of the fourth inning with a pair or runs, but the Warriors had an answer.
Fernandes and Langlois led off the inning with back-to-back singles, and Fernades managed to come around to score her second run of the game on an RBI single by Tamesha Jordan to put Del Norte ahead 6-3.
Fortuna grabbed another unearned run in the fifth inning to pull within 6-4, but senior pitcher Jordan didn’t allow a single base hit in the last two innings to close out the game and pick up the win, while allowing just two earned runs for the game.
“Tamesha really pitched well today, and she fielded her position really well too,” Heuberger said. “She really kept their batters off.”
In the first game of the day in Fortuna on Friday, Del Norte’s offense took control of the game. The Warriors scored two runs in the second inning, four in the third, three in the fourth, and six in the fifth to jump out to a 14-6 lead, holding on to win comfortably.
“We just pulled away,” Heuberger said. “We scored a lot of runs in one inning that put us way ahead, and our defense played strong.”
In the second game Fortuna jumped out to an 7-3 lead after the first two innings, but Del Norte managed to work its way back into the game.
Heuberger said after the first couple innings she decided to put Sanchez on the mound for her first action as a pitcher since middle school.
“To day it was her opportunity and she really enjoyed it,” Heuberger said. “She pitched really well, she got some strikeouts, and she kept us in the game. That was the important thing.”
Sanchez ended up pitching two innings before Jordan took over to end the game.
The Warriors put up four runs in the third inning to pull tie the game back up.
With the score tied at 9-9 heading into the sixth inning Del Norte managed to take the lead back. Burchell came across the plate to score for a 10-9 lead. In the top of the seventh inning Sanchez and Coopman both managed to scure to put the Warriors ahead 12-9.
Fortuna managed to pull off an impressive comeback in the final at bat, however, scoring four straight runs for a 13-12 win.
“We were ahead, but we gave up four runs at the end.,” Heuberger said. “They hit the ball really well and we made a few mistakes that helped them advance bases.”
After Friday’s doubleheader, Del Norte finishes its season in fourth place in the HDN Big 5 with a 3-9 record in league games.
After back-to-back trips to the North Coast Section Division IV championship game in 2017 and 2018, Del Norte struggled to find wins this year. The Warriors players still feel like it has been a memorable season, however.
“It has been a pretty fun year. It was a learning year and we lost a lot, which sucks, but at the end of the year I think we all had a solid, fun season,” Coopman said. “We are all like family, so we all come together no matter what. After tournaments, when we come back to the hotel, none of us are in bad moods. Last year none of us would have talked to each other but this year we are all family and we come to each other. If somebody is upset we pick them up right away. I think the season has bonded us more closely as friends.”
“It isn’t just on the field, we are with each other all the time — even in classes and stuff,” Horner added. “We have just made some really good friends, and gotten a lot closer to people.”
Heuberger said she is also happy with how her first season back as Del Norte’s head coach has gone.
“This is a really great group of girls,” she said. “We worked really hard this season. Even though we didn’t accomplish the things that we set out to, I think we had an enjoyable season. The girls who stopped playing for a few years and came back out to play didn’t regret it. They were glad to be there at the end. It was a good season for me as a coach to come back and kind of relearn how to get things done.”
With eight seniors on the roster this season, Heuberger said Del Norte has a lot of work to do before next season.
“Right now we only have five girls that are on the team that will be returning,” she said. “So it will be an interesting year next year to try to find hopefully seven more girls who are able to play at the varsity level.”