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Mark Lourenzo

Beacon Correspondent

The Ferndale Wildcats girls softball team will get back on the field this week after a long layoff and begin their quest for a North Coast Section Division 6 Championship. The Lady Cats have had a long wait to return to action due to the fact that the Division 6 bracket consists of just five teams, Ferndale is the defending champion and sits at the top as the No. 1 seed. The Wildcats opponent will be No. 5 seed Anderson Valley, who bested Tomales to move on to the second round game. That matchup was Wednesday afternoon, after our deadline for this week's edition. Unfortunately the Wildcats are the only Eel River Valley prep team still playing as the Fortuna girls softball, Huskies boys baseball and the Wildcats baseball team have all been eliminated in the NCS playoffs in the initial rounds.

The Fortuna Lady Huskies broke through in the section playoffs for the first time in four years as last week they bested Middletown in the opening round of the Division 4 bracket. The No. 4 seeded Huskies broke through early against Mustang starting pitcher Renee Edwards, who hit four Husky batters in the first three innings. Fortuna answered with three runs scored in both the first and third innings. Fortuna pitcher Morgan Harwood threw a complete game, allowing just three hits while striking out four batters. The Fortuna defense mopped up the rest of the balls put into play.

Husky heavy hitters included senior Merritt Schoenhofer, who went 3 for 4 with a double and three RBIs. Courtney Christensen and Karlie Murray each stroked a double, Callie Hayes and Pyper Daniels each had base hits. The Huskies ended the game early when they scored five runs in the fifth inning and invoked the 10-run rule to end the game at a 12-2 score. “She hit our batters so it was hard for us to get comfortable as hitters, but we took advantage late and finished off the game,” Fortuna head coach Eric Helms said of the wild start by Middletown pitching. The Huskies took the win and moved on to the second round.

San Rafael came to Fortuna as the No.12 seed for their game last Friday afternoon. The Bulldogs already had a win over a higher seed as they bested No. 5 Clear Lake in the first round. San Rafael may have had a losing record coming into the postseason, but they were also a team that was peaking at the right time, just in time for the playoffs. The Bulldogs and Huskies battled it out in the early innings just like playoff softball should be played, good pitching and defense took center stage. San Rafael scored a single run in the 2nd inning, Fortuna answered with a Nicole Tompkins home run in the bottom of the third. The Bulldogs added a run in the 5th frame and the Huskies battled back to tie it on Courtney Christensen's homerun to straight away centerfield.

The game appeared to be set for a dramatic finish and perhaps an excited win for the home team Huskies. It was the final two innings that it all came undone for the host team. A solid base hit, followed by an error, followed by a wild pitch and a seeing eye single between Husky infielders. The sequence of events that can undo the best of teams, the Bulldogs eked out two runs in both the sixth and seventh innings. The Huskies fell behind and even their final at bat, when they put runners on, could not change the outcome. Fortuna lost the game 6-2, thus ending their season.

Final track and field results from NCS/CIF events

The Fortuna Huskies track and field team send several athletes to the North Coast Section's Redwood Empire Meet on May 18 and the top finishers moved on to the Meet of Champions the following weekend. First up was the Redwood Area Meet at Santa Rosa High School two weeks ago. The top girls results from that event included Kenzie Rice's third place finish in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of :47.07. Distance specialist Michaela Barros ran the 1600 meters in a time of 5:16.87 for a fourth place finish. Katrina Cahill pole vaulted to a height of 9'-00 for a 7th place finish, those three girls moved on to Meet of Champions the following weekend. 

The Fortuna boys effort was led by multi-sport athlete Colton Ross who placed second in the pole vault with a height of 14'-03. Ross then took third in the 110-meter hurdle event. Jumper Ryan Wiegman took a third-place finish in the boys high jump with a leap of 6'-02. The freshman also placed eighth in the long jump event. Kyle Wiegman ran to a eighth-place finish in the 110-meter hurdles, then he soared to a height of 12 feet even in the pole vault.

Only the top athletes got to move on to the Meet of Champions the following weekend at University of California, Berkeley on May 24 and May 25. The best results for the Huskies came from Colton Ross, who placed fourth in the boys pole vault with a height of 13'-09. The result was under Ross' vault from the Redwood Empire event, otherwise he could have placed higher. Ross also took a ninth-place finish in the 110 meter hurdles. Kenzie Rice came in ninth place in the girls 300-meter hurdles and just missed the cut for the finals, which take the top eight placers.

Fortuna's Ryan Wiegman finished thirteenth in the boys high jump with a leap of 6'-02 and Michaela Barros came in sixteenth in the girls 1600-meter run with a time of 5:16.04. That was as far as their efforts would take them as none of the Husky athletes moved on to the upcoming CIF State Meet. Humboldt did send three track and field athletes to that event as McKinleyville's Morgin Coonfield, Eureka's Alexis Robinson and Arcata's Lauren McCoy will represent the H-DN at that prestigious event.

Photos by Mark Lourenzo/Beacon

1. Several members of the Fortuna Huskies girls softball team enjoy a lighter moment at the mound during the North Coast Section second round playoff game Friday at Fortuna High. The Huskies fell to San Rafael 6-2 and were eliminated from the postseason. The Huskies boys baseball team fell 9-2 in the first round to higher seed St. Helena, and Ferndale baseball lost 4-3 to Pt. Arena in the second round of Division 6.

2. Fortuna's Courtney Christensen watches her towering shot sail over the center field fence for a Husky home run in the North Coast Section second round playoff game played Friday at Fortuna High. Christensen and teammate Nicole Tompkins each contributed a solo shot to the effort, but the Huskies came up short to visiting San Rafael, ending their season. The Ferndale Wildcats girls softball team is still alive in the NCS playoffs and were set to host Anderson Valley Wednesday afternoon prior to publication.