By Ray Hamill — After wrapping up yet another Little 4 championship last week, the St. Bernard’s Crusaders will now turn their attention toward this coming week’s H-DNL tournament and next week’s North Coast Sections.
And they’ll go into both with lofty ambitions after yet another dominating league campaign.
St. Bernard’s has now won three straight Little 4 titles, and a remarkable 13 of the past 14, with South Fork in 2016 the only other team to take the title going all the way back to Ferndale’s win in 2005.
All 13 of St. Bernard’s championships in that time have been outright, further showcasing just how impressive this program has been.
Most of the time, that success has carried over to the NCS, with the Crusaders winning eight section championships since 2000.
They have not, however, won an NCS crown since 2015, although they certainly appear well equipped to do so this season, and are currently the No. 2 ranked team in Division V, behind Berean Christian.
And if they are to challenge for a section title, it will likely come down to the team’s strength.
“Pitching, pitching and pitching,” head coach Matt Tomlin said.
“We think our catcher is a pretty special baseball player,” the head coach added. “Our pitching and our catcher, our battery, has been outstanding this season.”
The stats would back that way of thinking.
Junior catcher Hunter Davis leads the team offensively with a .410 average and a team-best three home runs, and has arguably been even more instrumental behind the plate where he could be the best catcher in the H-DNL.
And the pitching has been every bit as impressive, with Tomlin and his staff able to call on a host of talented players.
“It’s just one of those years where we have a great staff,” Tomlin said. “We have five pitchers that we feel we can put on the mound and win a game at any time.”
Leading the way is the lone senior of the group, Caleb Ruiz, who has an ERA of 0.38 and is 7-2, while juniors Lane Thrap and Logan Petrusha, along with sophomore Bode Joyner and freshman Nick Dugan round a very strong five-man rotation.
As Little 4 champions, the Crusaders will have a bye in the opening round of the H-DNL tournament on Tuesday, and will play the winner of the Eureka/Ferndale game on Thursday.
Ruiz will get the start in that game.
“I don’t believe you ever save your ace to get to another game,” Tomlin said.