By Ray Hamill — The Crusaders have the best pitcher on the North Coast this season, and a whole lot more besides.
Heading into a big Wednesday night matchup at Fortuna, St. Bernard’s has won five straight games in H-DNL baseball, and the Crusaders have done so with the deepest pitching staff in the Little 4.
In addition to junior standout Nick Dugan, the Crusaders have four more standout pitchers on their roster, all of whom are playing at a top level this spring.
In fact, if you take away a sloppy season opener against Arcata, the Crusaders have arguably been one of the top two teams on the North Coast.
“We’ve won five straight since then,” head coach Matt Tomlin said. “We’re a team built around pitching. Our team ERA is 0.58 through six games, and we feel like we have a lot of arms and not just Dugan.”
Dugan, who has verbally committed to play at Stanford after graduation, has been everything expected, and has yet to allow a run through 10.2 innings.
On Saturday, he combined with teammate Aidan Dorsch to no-hit the Cubs in a doubleheader sweep at South Fork, while also hitting a couple of home runs, and he is one of this week’s Humboldt Sports Athletes of the Week.
Dorsch also has impressed in the early going, as have Bode Joyner, Brody Tomlin and Cayden Lee, giving the head coach five very solid options on the mound that will always give his team a chance to win.
Even more impressive, Joyner is the only senior of the bunch, with the other four all expected back next year when the North Coast Section playoffs return.
“All five have pitched very well for us so far,” Matt Tomlin said. “We feel like we have a nice foundation going forward.”
Joyner is one of only two seniors on the team, along with outfielder Micha Duncan, and has been a real team leader this spring, along with juniors Lee and Dugan.
“Those three are really serious baseball players,” Matt Tomlin said of Dugan, Lee and Joyner. “And they’ve really brought good leadership to the team.”
Several other players have also stepped up their game this spring, including sophomore Brayden Luna, who has had to fill some big shoes behind the plate.
“He switched to play catcher, and he’s done a great job helping the pitching staff,” said Matt Tomlin, who admitted he was concerned before the season who would step in at the position.
At second base, junior Drew Vizenor has also been instrumental in the team’s early success after transferring from Arcata.
“He’s been another great addition for our team,” Matt Tomlin said. “He started his freshman and sophomore years (at Arcata) and he’s been a really bright spot for us and a fun kid to coach.”
The Crusaders play at Fortuna on Wednesday night at 7 p.m.