By Ray Hamill — The top two baseball teams in the H-DNL lived up to the billing on Thursday afternoon, as the St. Bernard’s Crusaders edged the Arcata Tigers 4-3 to even the season series between the two at 1-1.
And after a highly-entertaining showdown, a packed house at Crusader Field can only hope we get to see round three between these two clubs later in the spring in the Charlie Lakin postseason tournament.
The game featured four of the best young pitchers in the area, all of whom pitched well, with Nick Dugan getting the win after the Crusaders battled back from a 3-1 deficit and an early error that resulted in a pair of Arcata runs.
“I liked our resiliency,” St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said. “We made that error, and after losing to them earlier we could have hung our heads, but we didn’t. We kept battling. I really liked our resiliency tonight.”
Dugan struck out 10 in five innings, allowing just one earned run on four hits and four walks.
The senior Stanford commit also was 2-for-3 at the plate with a walk and drove in teammate Drew Vizenor to give the Crusaders a one-run lead in the bottom of the first.
A dangerous Arcata lineup, however, answered immediately when freshman Anthony Ebert hit a game-tying solo home run to center field in the top of the second.
Later in the inning, with two outs, the Tigers added two more runs on an error at third base, with Isaiah Levy and Wilson Medina both scoring after reaching base on a base hit and walk, respectively.
The Crusaders, however, would answer themselves in the bottom of the third, when third baseman Cayden Lee hit a two-run home run, this one also to center field.
“That was a big, big hit in this game,” Tomlin said.
Lee also doubled to lead off the bottom of the fifth and would score the winning run moments later on a catcher’s interference call with the bases loaded.
The senior slugger finished 2-for-3 with the two extra-base hits, an RBI, a run and an intentional walk.
He wasn’t the only standout performance on the day.
Aidan Dorsch pitched two strong innings for the save, allowing two hits and no walks in a pair of scoreless innings, while also striking out four.
“I thought Dorsch was electric,” Tomlin said.
Dorsch also was 1-for-2 at the plate with two walks — one intentional — while SB lead-off hitter Braeden Zimmerman continued to impress and was 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and a stolen base.
Check out Cayden Lee’s home run from Thursday’s game below …
“Braeden Zimmerman has really played well for us this year,” Tomlin said.
Alex Gorge had a huge game for the Tigers and set the tempo early with a base hit in the top of the first inning.
The senior third baseman finished 3-for-4 and also made some big plays defensively.
Ebert also had a big game, playing well beyond his years and finishing 2-for-3 with the home run, his second of the season.
Vincent Agliolo and Nick Parker both pitched well for the Tigers.
Agliolo got the start and pitched four-plus strong innings, allowing six hits and five walks and striking out eight.
Fellow senior Nick Parker closed out the game, allowing just one hit and two intentional walks and striking out three.
“It’s just hard to take a loss on a catcher’s interference, but it was a good game,” Arcata head coach Troy Ghisetti said. “All the pitchers went out there and competed at a high level. (The Crusaders) just got the timely hit when they needed it.”
The matchup between the top-ranked Division-IV and Division-VI teams in the North Coast Section certainly lived up to expectations.
“That was a good game between two really good ball clubs,” said Tomlin, who added “I want to compliment Arcata. That’s not just a good baseball team, that’s a great baseball team.”
Arcata first baseman Will Mager made the defensive play of the game with an over-the-fence catch on a foul ball in the bottom of the second inning.
The catch was deemed illegal by the officials, but that didn’t take from a spectacular effort by the Tigers junior.
It remains a strong possibility both of these teams will meet again in the Charlie Lakin tournament.
“It was an outstanding high school baseball game and hopefully we’ll get a chance to play them again,” Ghisetti said.
Both teams are now 6-1, with their only losses coming against each other.
“I’m just really proud of our guys,” Tomlin added. “Our pitching was outstanding and we found a way to win.”