By Ray Hamill — Humboldt Eagles head coach Matt Tomlin this week paid tribute to what he described as a special group of players after an outstanding summer season for the local American Legion club.
The Eagles officially closed out the season on Tuesday night with a 6-3 loss to the Medford Rogues, a semi-pro team added to the schedule at the last minute.
The team, which featured an all-county all-star lineup, had to overcome some controversy and plenty of adversity on the way to posting a 35-12 record, having been forced to travel for games for much of the season because of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions in place.
And Tomlin says his players displayed tremendous character all season long.
“We overcame so many obstacles we faced on the way to not only playing 46 or 47 games but having a hugely successful summer,” he said. “For the kids to overcome that adversity, that’s something I’ll always remember.”
Tomlin also praised the way his players handled themselves off the field and says he didn’t have a single complaint despite all the travel and the many nights spent on the road.
“Not only were they a great baseball team, but also the most mature baseball team I’ve ever coached,” he said. “And they were just a fun group to be around.”
After such a successful season, naturally, there were no shortage of stars.
Four players, however, stood out a little more than their teammates, earning the club’s unofficial end-of-season awards.
Ruiz was simply sensational all summer in just about every aspect of the game.
“The combination of what he did on the mound and at the plate as our four hitter, for me he was our MVP,” Tomlin said.
Ruiz, who was a freshman at College of the Redwoods this past spring, batted .377 for the Eagles, while finishing 5-1 on the hill with an ERA of 1.97.
He also had 63 strikeouts and 33 walks in 49.2 innings.
Mr. Reliable, Gorge was the team’s most consistent defensive player, stepping up wherever needed.
“He was just brilliant with the glove at first base, third base, shortstop,” Tomlin said.
Gorge will play a second season at Shasta College next spring.
Gomes had what his coach described as an “amazing summer,” leading the Eagles at the plate.
The Butte College bound slugger batted a remarkable .426 and also had a team-best three home runs.
Even more remarkable, the former Ferndale star struck out just seven times in 113 plate appearances.
Rookie of the Year
The Fortuna sophomore showed why he is one of the brightest prospects in the area right now, consistently impressing against older opposition all summer both at the plate and on defense.
His .361 average was third best on the team behind Gomes and Ruiz.
“He’s 14 and half the pitchers he faced were college pitchers,” Tomlin said. “He was impressive behind the plate, he was impressive at third base. He’s just a special player.”
The four award winners weren’t the only players to impress.
“Everybody was great,” Tomlin said. “It was really a special team to be around. What a wonderful team, the way they played together.”
Tomlin also praised the effort of club GM/pitching coach Jim Pastori, who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to piece together a schedule in difficult circumstances.
“What Jim did putting together this schedule was amazing,” Tomlin said. “He was burning the phone every night, He just wasn’t going to give up on these kids.”