baseball

Ruiz, Crusaders hold off late Huskies rally

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Photos by Ray Hamill/HumboldtSports.com – St. Bernard’s pitcher Caleb Ruiz, right, talks to his catcher Hunter Davis during Thursday’s game.

By Ray Hamill — Caleb Ruiz pitched a second straight one-hitter on Thursday afternoon, as St. Bernard’s held off a late rally by Fortuna to take a non-conference baseball game in Eureka by a score of 3-1.

Ruiz is arguably the top pitcher on the North Coast this spring and he did little to undermine that reputation with another dominating performance.

“Ruiz was Ruiz,” St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said of the team’s lone senior, who had 14 strikeouts and did not allow a hit until the seventh inning. “He has been so impressive this year.”

Fortuna countered with lefty Dylan McNeill, who was pretty impressive himself, growing into the game and holding the home team scoreless for six of the seven innings.

“For us, Dylan McNeill was awesome,” Fortuna head coach Andy Olsen said. “He settled in, and it was the second game in a row where after a couple of innings he put up some zeroes.

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St. Bernard’s infielder Lane Thrap throws to first base.

“He gave us a chance to win, which is all you can ask.”

The Crusaders only needed one big inning, scoring all three of their runs in the bottom of the second, with yet another freshman stepping up.

Tomlin has a handful of very talented first-year players on his squad, and on Thursday it was the turn of Taholo Vainuku-Johnson, who finished with a base hit, an RBI, and a run.

Lineup change

Junior Ayden Hamanaka also had a big game, playing leadoff for the first time and repaying his coaches’ faith in him.

Tomlin decided to make the lineup switch going against McNeil after seeing Hamanaka play well against other lefties.

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Fortuna’s Dylan McNeill

“He rewarded us with a big two-RBI single,” the head coach said.

And that was as much as Ruiz and the Crusaders’ defense would need, although the Huskies made things interesting in the seventh.

After Ruiz walked both Gabe Sandberg and Garrett Aust, Branson Gans got Fortuna’s first base hit of the day to load the bases, barely beating out the throw from Lane Thrap to first base.

Daeden Taylor then walked to drive home the Huskies’ first run of the day, before Ruiz struck out Regen Nyberg to end the game and leave the bases loaded.

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St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin talks to some of his players during Thursday’s game.

Clutch at-bats

The rally may have come up short, but the Huskies stepped up with some clutch at-bats late in the game for the second straight game, something that had been lacking before.

“We didn’t give up, which was good to see,” Olsen said. “We put some pressure on Ruiz and made things a little nervous for them.”

Gans also had a good day defensively in right field, while Nyberg impressed at shortstop.

“Every ground ball, he attacked it,” Olsen said of Nyberg.

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Fortuna’s Daeden Taylor

The Huskies also continued to play well defensively after some recent struggles on that side of the ball as well.

“It’s the second game in a row we limited the errors, and that right there is keeping us in games,” Olsen said.

Joyner remains hot

For St. Bernard’s. Bode Joyner remained hot, finishing 2-for-3 with a double, while Hunter Davis also doubled to round out a five-hit team performance.

With the win, the Crusaders improve to 10-3, while the Huskies drop to 3-8.

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Fortuna has a bye in league play this week and is scheduled to play at Eureka on Wednesday.

St. Bernard’s will host Hoopa in a Little 4 doubleheader on Saturday at 1 p.m. 

The games were pushed back an hour to accommodate Arcata and McKinleyville, who will get a triple header of action at the field started at 10:30 a.m.

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