By Ray Hamill — The Humboldt Eagles faced their toughest challenge of the summer yet on Saturday, splitting a hard-fought doubleheader with the West Coast Kings in 19U American Legion baseball action at St. Bernard’s.
Pitcher Nick Dugan was close to untouchable in the opener, leading the Eagles to a 7-2 win, but the visitors got the better of exchanges in the nightcap, holding the home team to just one hit in an exciting 2-1 victory.
With the split, the Eagles are now 13-2 on the summer season.
“Overall, I was very happy,” head coach Matt Tomlin said. “We played a very good West Coast Kings team and we really competed well today.”
With Dugan in command and throwing as high as 90 miles per hour, the Eagles took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning of game one, before adding three more runs in the fourth for a 5-0 advantage.
It was all the standout pitcher would need.
Dugan, who will be a junior at St. Bernard’s this fall, allowed just one hit and two walks in 5.2 innings work, while striking out 11.
The Kings scored twice in the top of the fifth, but it proved to be just a temporary setback for the Eagles, who restored their five-run lead with two more runs in the sixth.
Closer Hayden Bode pitched the final 1.1 innings, keeping the visitors at bay.
“I thought Dugan was outstanding, as always,” Tomlin said. “And then Hayden Bode came in and he was electric and did a great job.”
Keenan Morris, one of many Eagles players enjoying a big summer on both sides of the ball, led the way offensively with a pair of hits, including a big two-RBI double in the bottom of the sixth (see video highlight above).
But it was three at-bats in particular that showed just how dangerous this Eagles team is, and how difficult they are proving to be for opposing pitchers.
On two occasions Lane Thrap faced a two-strike count and each time he managed to drive in a run, while Parker Rodgers also overcame a two-strike count with a crucial RBI-single to right field in the bottom of the fourth inning.
“I thought those three two-strike at-bats were a big-time key for us in game one,” Tomlin said.
The Eagles opened the scoring in the third when pinch runner Zac Anderson scored on a Thrap groundout to break the deadlock.
Morris, who singled to reach base, scored moments later on a Cameron Saso double for a 2-0 lead.
The home team added three more runs in the following inning.
A Caleb Ruiz walk and back-to-back singles by Branson Gans and Hayden Bode loaded the bases, before Rodgers’ big at-bat and base hit drove home Ruiz to make it 3-0.
Branson Gans then scored on a double steal attempt, before Thrap drove home Bode on a sac fly to make it 5-0.
Game two presented a bigger challenge for the Eagles.
“In game two we faced three outstanding pitchers,” Tomlin said. “It was just a great game.”
Trailing by two runs in the bottom of the seventh, the Eagles pulled within one and gave themselves a chance with runners on, but were denied.
Landon Gomes got the Eagles’ only hit of the game and scored their only run.
Saso, who pitched a no-hitter last weekend, was outstanding on the mound once again, tossing four strong innings and allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out four.
Bode and Gomes each also were strong in relief.