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.