Archived news by year: 2011

Making Their Mark

ARCATA (Oct. 6) — The road to the Major Leagues is usually long and winding, and for at least two of them, it included a drive through the redwoods.

Two former Humboldt Crabs, Brett Pill (2003) and Vinnie Pestano (2004), made their mark on Major League Baseball in 2011, for the San Francisco Giants and Cleveland Indians respectively.

After apperaing in five games in 2010, Pestano was a fixture in the Cleveland bullpen this past season, throwing 62 innings in 67 appearances and posting a 2.32 ERA, 84 strikeouts to just 24 walks and a 1.05 WHIP.

Pill, the subject of an in-depth cover story in this week's North Coast Journal, had to wait a long time to reach the big leagues, but wasted no time making his mark when he got there.

Pill was called up on Aug. 31 when the Giants decided to part ways with Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada. When he stepped up to the plate for his first MLB at-bat against the Padres on Sept. 6, this happened:

When Pill talked to Eric Gourley for his NCJ story, he was quick to credit the Crabs for helping jump-start his career.

“Playing summer ball in Arcata was just an awesome atmosphere, a great experience,” the soft-spoken Pill said. “It was a good place to really start my career. Arcata was the first place where I got to play every day. I was kind of a walk-on in college, and I needed to play in a starting line-up. That’s where Humboldt really helped me.”

The Crabs congratulate both Pill and Pestano on their accomplishments, and wish them even more success in the future.

Crabs are Best in the Far West

ARCATA (Aug. 7) — The taller the mountain, the greater the accomplishment in scaling it. So the Humboldt Crabs had to feel pretty darn good about themselves after reaching the pinnacle of the Far West League.

Anchored by a deep pitching staff, the Crabs won three straight games over a span of 11 hours on Sunday — and four in 24 hours going back to Saturday night — to overcome an opening round loss and claim the inaugural Far West League Championship at the Arcata Ball Park, writing a dramatic and perfect end to the story of the 67th season of Crabs baseball.

The slow start and fast finish was a microcosm of the last two months, which saw the Crabs start a bit slow, but then surge to a 40-13 overall record and a 21-6 league mark.

"It was very apropos," said Crabs Manager Matt Nutter. "We lose a tough one on Friday night, and the guys had their heads down a little bit, but I told them to get their heads up, this thing isn't over we gotta come out and play a lot of base ball. It was a great job by our guys to stay in there and keep fighting. We knew we had the pitching, we just had to hit."

Fans and players alike may have been a bit groggy as the Crabs took on Fontanetti's Athletics at 10 AM, but Ivory Thomas jolted everyone to life in the third inning by launching a towering three-run freeway ball deep to left-center that gave the Crabs a 4-0 lead.

They would add three more in the inning and never looked back in a 7-2 win that booted the A's from the tournament. Cedar Morgan threw a complete game, carrying a no-hitter into the seventh.

As the Crabs were finishing off the A's, the Neptune Beach Pearl began to gather on the right-field bleachers. The Pearl were undefeated in the tournament, averaging 10 runs a game in their two victories, and needed only to win one of two games to take the title.

But the Crabs had other plans. In the 2 PM game, Thomas hit his second freeway ball of the day in the third to answer one by Mike Senter the previous half-inning, and Matt Lopez reached base all five times he came to the plate, going 4-for-4 with a walk. Kyle Crawford took the mound, throwing eight innings before giving way to John Austin, who picked up the save in a 6-3 win.

That set up a winner-take-all battle at dusk for the championship. After falling behind 1-0 early, the Crabs, tied it with an unearned run in the third, then scored three runs in the fourth, sparked by an Austin Prott home run. Zach Morgan tossed six innings, Joey Van Cleave threw two in relief, and Austin came in again in the ninth to seal a 5-1 win and the improbable and memorable Far West League title.

Handing Out the Hardware

ARCATA (Aug. 7) — After the Humboldt Crabs captured the first-ever Far West League Championship on Sunday, the team gave out its traditional post-season awards, and leading the way was their leadoff man, Ivory Thomas, who was named the Team MVP.

"We've got a lot of good players on the team, some big name guys, so I'm pretty honored to be named MVP," said Thomas, who proved his MVP worth with two home runs on Sunday to push the team toward the title.

The two home runs gave him a team-best five on the summer, and Thomas also finished tied David Del Grande for the team lead with a .340 average, and always seemed to be on base.

Speaking of Del Grande, he was named the team Offensive Player of the Year, thanks to the aforementioned average. Del Grande's 54 hits were by far tops on the team, a good 15 more than the next best mark.

The Defensive Player of the Year was Austin Prott, who was a veritable Hoover at first base, both in balls hit at him by opponents and thrown at him by teammates.

The Most Valuable Pitcher award, to the surprise of no one, went to Aaron West, whose numbers bordered on absurd: 7-0, 0.17 ERA, 83 strikeouts and just 11 walks over 54 innings.

Jason Mahood received the Kevin Morsching/Scott Heinig Memorial Award as the team's most inspirational player. He was a hard-nosed player on the field, and a solid leader off of it.

After presenting the awards, Manager Matt Nutter made a point of thanking John Austin and Zach O'Hanen, two outgoing seniors who pitched for the Crabs for three seasons. Their contributions to the Crabs organization will be missed.

Putting the West in Far West League

ARCATA (Aug. 6) — Faced with the prospect of being bounced early from the inaugural Far West League Tournament, the Humboldt Crabs pulled their ace from their sleeve, and he paid off in spades.

Aaron West improved his perfect record to 7-0 with a complete-game, 12-strikeout gem as the Crabs topped the Atwater Aviators 2-0 in the final game of an action-packed day at the Arcata Ball Park on Saturday.

Thanks in part to a pair of key wild pitches and a passed ball, the Crabs offense did just enough to make sure West's performance didn't go to waste. In the third, Nick Latta singled to lead off, took second on a wild pitch, moved to third on a groundout, and scored on an Ivory Thomas single.

Insurance came in the fifth, when Brett Morgan singled, stole second, advanced to third when strike 3 on Thomas skipped to the backstop, then came home on another wild pitch.

The win extends the Crabs' season another day, and sets up a rematch on Sunday at 10 AM with the Fontanetti's A's, who beat the Crabs on Friday but lost to the Neptune Beach Pearl 8-2 on Saturday.

The Crabs-A's winner earns the right to face the Pearl at 2 PM. If the Pearl win that game, they are the champions; if not, they'll reset and do it again in a winnner-take-all battle at 6 PM.

Sunday's complete schedule is: 

10 AM: Humboldt Crabs vs. Fontanetti's A's (loser eliminated)
2 PM: Neptune Beach Pearl vs. Winner of 10 AM game
6 PM: Repeat of 2 PM game, if Pearl lose

Here are the brackets after Friday's games.

Crabs Fall to Fontanetti's in FWL Tourney

 [updated with 11AM game results]

ARCATA (Aug. 6) — In a pitcher's duel, a defensive play made or missed usually determines the outcome, and that was exactly the case Friday night as the Crabs dropped their opening game in the Far West League Tournament 1-0 to the Fontanetti's Athletics.

Fontanetti's right fielder Scott Masik made an outstanding diving catch and turned it into a double play to squash the Crabs' best shot at a rally against starter Mike Manelo in the sixth inning.

Conversely, a less-than accurate throw by Crabs left fielder Casey Watkins allowed the A's Spencer Frazer to stretch a single into a double in the third (an accurate throw would likely have had him), and former Crab Jeff Johnson cashed in the opportunity, scoring Frazer with a solid single to right for the only run of the game.

The Crabs now fall into the loser's bracket, and will try to stave off elimination Saturday at 7 p.m. against the Atwater Aviators, who won the day's first game 3-0 over the Redding Colt .45s. If they can survive that, they'll be faced with the prospect of having to win three straight games on Sunday if they are to capture the FWL Championship.

Fontanetti's plays the second game of the day against the Neptune Beach Pearl, which advanced in the winner's bracket by beating Atwater 12-3 on Friday.

Saturday's complete schedule is: 

11AM: Atwater Aviators 3, Redding Colt .45s 0 (Redding eliminated)
3 PM: Neptune Beach Pearl vs. Fontanetti's A's
7 PM: Humboldt Crabs vs. Atwater Aviators (loser eliminated)

Here are the brackets after Friday's games.

Tourney Time!

After two months of hard work, the Crabs will reap their rewards this weekend as the top seed of the 2011 Far West League Championship tournament, which starts Friday at the Arcata Ball Park.

The full field, in order of seeding, is the Crabs (1), Atwater Aviators (2), Neptune Beach Pearl (3), Fontanetti's Athletics (4) and Redding Colt .45s (5). The tournament was supposed to take the top six teams in the FWL, but the Southern Oregon RiverDawgs, who qualified in sixth spot, have declined their invitation. So Friday begins a madhouse double-elimination tournament, with three games on the docket:

11AM: (4) Fontanetti's Athletics vs. (5) Redding Colt .45s 
3 PM: (2) Atwater Aviators vs. (3) Neptune Beach Pearl 
7 PM: (1) Humboldt Crabs vs. Winner of 11 AM game

The higher-seeded team is the home team for all games. The Crabs will also play the 7 PM game on Saturday, against an opponent yet to be determined. The first possible championship game will be at 2 PM on Sunday. While the Crabs hope to be in that game, there are no guarantees of the Crabs playing after Saturday night, so catch 'em while you can!

A full printable tournament bracket — with Friday's schedule listed on the side — is available here. Tournament passes are $18 and are being sold at the Eureka and Arcata chambers of commerce, as well as Solo Sports in Arcata.

UPDATE: Here are the brackets after Friday's games. Saturday's games are:

11AM: Redding Colt .45s vs. Atwater Aviators (loser eliminated)
3 PM: Neptune Beach Pearl vs. Fontanetti's A's
7 PM: Humboldt Crabs vs. Winner of 11 AM game (loser eliminated)

Home Again, and in the Home Stretch

After spend the weekend in lovely — except for the weather — Medford, the Humboldt Crabs return home today, and while it's hard to believe, tonight's 7 p.m. game against the Fresno Cardinals marks the beginning of the final homestand of the 2011 season.

The road trip was moderately successful, with the Crabs dropping Friday's game against the Southern Oregon RiverDawgs 10-9, then bouncing back to sweep a doubleheader on Saturday by scores of 8-0 and 3-0. None of the games counted in the Far West League standings, which find the Crabs holding onto the top spot in the Northern Division at 14-4 (26-10 overall), three games ahead of the Redding Colt .45s.

The Cardinals are in fifth place in the FWL South, with an 8-13 league record after falling to the RiverDawgs 6-5 on Monday, and they surely know time is running out if they hope to qualify for the league tournament.

Tonight is Veterans Night, with all current and former servicemembers getting in for $2. Wednesday's doubleheader is Hawaiian Shirt Night. Anyone with a Hawaiian shirt on gets $1 off admission, and there will be prizes for the best shirts.

Looking further down the schedule, the Nevada Bullets come to town this Friday and Saturday, and Sunday afternoon's game will be against the Steelheads.

Crabs Q & A: Jimmy MacWilliam


Crabs Q & A
#35 Jimmy Macwilliam, left-handed pitcher
By Kylee Chandler/Special Events Coordinator

Q: Have you always been a pitcher?

A: Well in high school I played 1st base and outfield but once I got to college I started focusing just on pitching and I’ve been doing that for the last 4 years.

Q: You’re a left-handed pitcher do you think that is an advantage or disadvantage?

A: Advantage because growing up people see right-handed pitchers all the time. Left-handed pitchers usually have a lot more movement so I think it’s definitely more affective I feel to be left-handed over right.

Q: Which do you prefer pitching to right or left-handed batters?

A: Left because they are easier to get out having that advantage being left handed against a left-handed batter.

Q: Being a pitcher is a high-pressure position so how do you stay calm when you’re out on the mound?

A: Honestly try and not focus as much as I can because getting too into the game you let other things affect you. Also not thinking of every pitch while I’m pitching. Just worry about one at a time instead of letting little things affect me.

Q: What goes through your mind after you walk a batter?

A: Okay well that’s over, moving on to the next one. I’m going to work on one pitch at a time and focus on that.

Q: How did you first hear about the Crabs?

A: From my teammates at the University of Hawaii. They told me all about their summer here and how awesome it was and once I found out I got the opportunity to come play here I was all over it.

Q: How does playing for the Crabs compare to the Midwest where you played summer baseball before?

A: I love the baseball field here for sure. The crowd is so awesome here and they have the Crabs Grass Band that’s something completely different than anyone else will ever have and it’s great.

Q: What’s your major and what are your plans for after college?

A: Political science and minoring in history. After I graduate from my undergrad I’m going to go to law school and be a real estate lawyer or a sports agent.

Crabs Q & A: Ivory Thomas

Crabs Q & A
#30 Ivory Thomas, Crabs Center Fielder
By Kylee Chandler/Special Events Coordinator

Q: Why do you play baseball?

A: I enjoy doing it. I like coming out and competing everyday and I like the people I get to meet in my journeys. 

Q: Which player or person most inspired you to be the best baseball player you could be?

A: My cousin Tony Miranda. He played at Fullerton (where I play) and was part of the National Championship team in the 90’s. I hang out with him a lot.

Q: What has been the highlight of your baseball career so far?

A: Going through a complete season this year, I was able to go without injury.

Q: Many baseball players have been given a nickname do you have one?

A: The team calls me Darkness both here and in Fullerton.

Q: Who is your favorite professional baseball team?

A: Dodgers

Q: After summer is over what is next for you?

A: Back to school.

Q: What are your plans for life after college?

A: I want to play baseball hopefully, but if I don’t I want to enter the probation field, criminal law.

Q: How have you adjusted to life in Humboldt coming from the LA area?

A: It’s a lot different. The weather in fact, I kind of hate it because it’s always cold. The community is pretty good, everybody is pretty nice. It’s real peaceful up here no city life.

Q: Many are saying that you are the fan favorite of this season, why do you think that is?

A: I don’t know. I just enjoy playing so maybe that shows and they appreciate that.

Q: What is the story behind the white baseball glove?

A: Actually one of my buddies had me get it during season and I asked my coach at Fullerton if I could use it, he said it was ok, but we were kind of struggling so I didn’t want to bring it out and have it be bad luck.

Q: You have a black glove too so how did you decide between the two?

A: I don’t think white goes with all white jerseys so I try to color coordinate.

Q: Complete this sentence: When I’m not playing baseball, you would find me _______.

A: Probably in my bed sleeping.

SCHEDULE NOTE: Pirates Series is at Home Tue & Wed

Please note that this week's Far West League series against the NorCal Pirates has been moved up a day and will now be played at the Arcata Ball Park. Printed schedules were made before this change.

Tuesday will be a doubleheader beginning at 5:30 p.m. and Wednesday will be a single game. For the complete Crabs schedule, click here.