Prep Baseball — Excitement building early in the Little 4

This year’s Little 4 could be a lot of fun.

It certainly appears wide open and loaded with quality pitching.

On Saturday, St. Bernard’s and South Fork split a doubleheader at Miranda, leaving the Cubs alone atop the standings for now at 3-1, with both St. Bernard’s and Ferndale right on their heels at 2-1.

Ferndale swept two games at Hoopa Valley on Saturday to remain in the thick of things, and will play a single game at St. Bernard’s on Wednesday with a share of the league lead up for grabs.

St. Bernard’s 3, South Fork 0

St. Bernard’s 0, South Fork 2

St. Bernard’s senior Caleb Ruiz continued to impress on the mound while pitching a one-hitter on the way to the win in game one.

Ruiz struck out 13 batters.

At the plate, freshman Nick Dugan finished 2-for-3 with an RBI, as the Crusaders broke the deadlock in a scoreless game with three runs in the top of the sixth.

Hunter Davis had a big hit to key the late surge, while Bode Joyner had an RBI.

CJ Van Meter took the loss for the Cubs despite another strong outing from the senior standout, as a couple of late mistakes by the home team proved costly in a tight game.

The second game was a similar tale, except this time it was the Cubs who broke the late deadlock, with junior Kayden Pogue pitching the win and holding the Crusaders to just five hits.

“I threw him a little bit at Hoopa last week and he looked pretty good, so I figured I’d give him another shot,” South Fork head coach Corky Coffelt said of the junior. 

Pogue didn’t disappoint.

Neither did Dugan, who got the start for the Crusaders.

The freshman has made an immediate impact this season and allowed just three hits while striking out 12 in a complete-game performance.

But he got little offensive help and took the loss when the home team scored twice in the bottom of the sixth to sneak the win.

“He’s the real deal, whether he’s pitching, or hitting, or playing position,” St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said of Dugan. “He’s a great baseball player.”

The St. Bernard’s head coach also paid tribute to the Cubs.

“They’ve got a good baseball team,” Tomlin said. “The race for the Little 4 is going to go down to the last day.”

Davis had a double for St. Bernard’s in the loss.

With the split, St. Bernard’s is now 8-3 overall, while the Cubs are 7-1.

South Fork plays at Fortuna on Tuesday, before traveling to Ferndale for a key L4 doubleheader next Saturday.

Ferndale 12, Hoopa 1

Ferndale 13, Hoopa 3

The Ferndale Wildcats comfortably took care of business at Hoopa, winning both ends of the doubleheader for their first league wins.

The Cats quickly took control of the opener with three runs in the top of the first and led 10-1 after three innings, ending the game after five.

Austin Hughes pitched the win, while Shaun Leonardo led the way offensively, finishing 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs.

Hughes, Jenner Christiansen, and Landon Gomes each had two hits.

Scott Searle, John Smith, Jonathan Martinez, Kagan Renteria and Trey Crawford each had a hit for the Warriors in the opener.

In the second game, Gomes had four hits to lead the visitors, who again struck quickly with four runs in the first.

The home team answered immediately, however, scoring three runs in the bottom half of the inning to grab some momentum.

It remained close until late, when the Cats blew the game open with six runs in the top of the sixth.

Kyler Radelfinger, Brent Luster, Putter Walters and Leonardo each had two hits in the win, while Nico Alejandre drove home three runs.

“Overall, the important thing was to get two league wins, and move on going into a busy week,” Ferndale head coach Justin Andersen said. 

With the sweep, the Cats improved to 4-5, while Hoopa drops to 0-4 in the Little 4 and 0-7 overall.

After playing at St. Bernard’s on Wednesday, the Cats return home to host South Fork in a doubleheader next Saturday.

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