Throwback Thursday: McKinleyville baseball takes first steps towards Big 5 title

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The 2019 Humboldt-Del Norte League baseball season featured a wire-to-wire race for the Big 5 Conference crown.

It wasn’t until the final day of the regular season that a champion was decided. McKinleyville clashed with Eureka in a Saturday afternoon double-header and won game one 5-1, securing the program’s first conference title since 1996.

But the Panthers let all of us know in mid-March that the Big 5 crown would head back to Mack-town after a 20-plus year hiatus — we just didn’t listen.

On March 16, 2019, McKinleyville claimed a 5-4 come-from-behind win against Fort Bragg in the Fort Bragg Tournament championship game.

The tourney title counted as McKinleyville’s first at Fort Bragg since the 1995 season.

1995 saw the Panthers reign supreme over the Big 5.

In 2019 the Panthers repeated the same feat, going on to win a conference championship after starting the season with a Fort Bragg tourney win.

Next time McKinleyville leaves Fort Bragg with a tournament title, we may as well name the Big 5 champion then and there and be done with it.

“The way we won that tournament made my guys believe we we could win a league title and go far,” McKinleyville head coach Scott St. John said. “It gave us a lot of confidence going into league and was that first kind of chapter of what was a storybook year for us.”

Here’s the gamer from 2019

The McKinleyville High baseball team made a bit of history on Saturday afternoon, winning the Fort Bragg Tournament championship in Fort Bragg for the first time since 1995.

McKinleyville pulled off a late-game comeback to beat Fort Bragg 5-4 after trailing 4-1 entering the bottom of the fifth.

“It was one of the best — probably the best — game I’ve been in since I got here,” McKinleyville’s second-year head coach Scott St. John said. “What a great win for our boys; I’m so proud of how they competed this weekend.”

McKinleyville (5-0) and Fort Bragg ended the first inning knotted in a 1-1 tie. After three complete scoreless innings, Fort Bragg scored three runs in the top of the fifth to pull ahead 4-1.

Big bottom-of-the-inning hits by Corbin Eichin, Lance Lally, Regan Wolfe and Kyler Carr reversed their team’s deficit in a hurry as McKinleyville stormed back to take a 5-4 lead heading into the top of the sixth.

Jack Patton, a junior, came in at pitcher in relief of starter Cameron Saso in the bottom of the sixth with a 1-run lead and the game in his hands.

He threw two shutout innings to end McKinleyville’s 23-year Fort Bragg tourney championship-drought.

“I put (Patton) in a big-pressure spot that he’s not all that used to,” St. John said. “He did so great. To come into a game in that spot and deliver is huge.”

McKinleyville advanced to Saturday’s tournament championship with a 10-0 win over Esparto earlier in the day. Carr pitched all six innings of that game, throwing a shutout while doing so.

The 1995 McKinleyville team, which last won the Fort Bragg tourney, went on to win a Big 5 Conference title and a North Coast Section championship. Oh yeah, and Corbin Eichin’s father, Eric Eichin, was on that team — a squad which now sits in the McKinleyville High Hall Of Fame.

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