MCKINLEYVILLE - For a special season to occur, special moments in big games are a necessity. On Friday, in the North Coast Section Division IV semifinals, host McKinleyville got one of those special moments, rallying with two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat Fort Bragg, 2-1, and advance to next week's title game against rival Arcata.
Trailing by one heading into their final opportunity, the Panthers got things started when Lance Lally reached on an error. Chase Fisher then reached on a bunt single, before Isaac Puzz tied the game with his RBI single to right field, finally lending some run support to a terrific outing on the mound from sophomore Corbin Eichin.
Fittingly, it was Eichin who came up with Fisher standing on third base and the game tied. And after allowing just three hits and one walk during a complete game performance, Eichin made sure the game did not go to extra innings, lofting a sacrifice fly deep enough to score Fisher for the dramatic walk-off victory.
With the win, McKinleyville will face rival Arcata for the fifth time this season in the section title game, which will be played on Wednesday at the Arcata Ball Park. The Panthers have won three of the previous four meetings.
"All of the games with them have been tough this season, and we are not expecting anything less this time," McKinleyville coach Scott St. John told HumboldtSports.com reporter Ray Hamill.
Arcata rallies twice to reach title game
McKinleyville was not the only team from the Humboldt Del Norte league to advance via a walk-off sacrifice fly in the Division IV semifinals, as Arcata followed the same path against St. Patrick-St. Vincent for the 5-4 victory.
Arcata trailed the Bruins 3-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth, but scored three times to take a one-run lead. St. Pat's tied the game again in the top of the seventh, but Mason Trakpus drove in Xavier Finnegan on sac fly to center field to win the game. Jaden Gorge earned the win with his complete game effort on the mound, striking out four and allowing six hits.
Brian Ford and Porter Price each had key run-scoring hits during the sixth inning rally.
Benicia, Maria Carrillo to meet for Division II title
Defending NCS Division II champion Alameda's bid for another title came to a crashing halt on Friday afternoon, when a red-hot Benicia team downed the Hornets 10-0, in a mercy-rule shortened five-inning game.
Nate Freeman struck out four and allowed just two hits in the win for the Panthers, adding a home run at the plate. Meanwhile, leadoff hitter Shane Martin went 3-for-3 with two runs scored and three RBIs on a day where Benicia simply dominated every inning.
Meanwhile, Maria Carrillo used a six-run third-inning to pull away from former NBL rival Casa Grande for a 7-1 semifinal win over the Gauchos. Connor Charpiot got it done on the mound and at the plate for the Pumas, tossing six innings and allowing just five hits, while also going 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs. KC Kelly also drove in two runs and scored twice.
Maria Carrillo and Benicia will meet on Wednesday, at Maria Carrillo, for the section title.