Top class pitching takes center stage on historic day for local sports

Form left to right, Hailey Dolcini, Kira Morris and Nick Dugan

By Ray Hamill — North Coast sports fans will enjoy a day of top class sports action on Thursday, as a pair of local teams and one local legend each play for a little bit of history.

In baseball, the St. Bernard’s Crusaders will host Central High out of Fresno in the CIF NorCal Division-III semifinals, while in softball, the Eureka Loggers will play at Monterey High in the NorCal Division-IV semifinals.

And that’s not all.

Local sports fans can also tune into ESPN on Thursday morning to check out Hailey Dolcini and the Texas Longhorns on the opening day of the Women’s College World Series.

The North Coast has never seen a day like it.

Not only is this the first time two local teams have played for a place in a NorCal championship in baseball or softball, but it’s also the first time an H-DNL player has ever reached the Women’s College World Series.

And all three of these games feature one thing in common above all others — outstanding pitching.

Three local individuals who have already either achieved greatness or appear destined to do so, will lead their teams into battle, and all three will inspire great confidence in their teammates when they do.

Dolcini’s place in local softball history is already secured, and she continues to serve as a huge inspiration for countless young girls across the North Coast in a sport the area is seeing tremendous success in.

One of the players Dolcini has influenced is Eureka junior Kira Morris, who used to go watch the former Fortuna Husky standout when she was pitching in high school.

Kira Morris

Morris, who says Dolcini has really helped her out a lot, has been sensational all season long for the high-flying Loggers and has lost just once in 24 appearances in the circle.

You get the feeling that if there’s one current player destined to follow in Dolcini’s footsteps at the next level, Morris is best equipped to do so.

As a junior, the best is yet to come from the Eureka standout, which is a scary thought for the rest of the H-DNL.

At St. Bernard’s, meanwhile, senior Nick Dugan also looks set to succeed at the next level and had his choice of top-class Division-I college programs before committing to Stanford.

Dugan also is coming off a sensational campaign and is a generational talent.

“Nick Dugan and (teammate) Aidan Dorsch are two high school pitchers as good as any I’ve seen in 20 years,” is how head coach Matt Tomlin described the SB duo after they cruised through the North Coast Section playoffs without allowing a single run.

Dugan will get the start for the Crusaders on Thursday evening, with first pitch set for 5 p.m., and it could very well be the last time we get to see him here on the North Coast on a high school mound.

Nick Dugan

For the year, he is 10-0 with an ERA of 1.00, and he also leads his team in batting average (.541), RBIs (39) and home runs (seven).

And the best thing about him is how good a teammate he is, according to his head coach.

Like Dolcini and Morris, Dugan is also a strikeout specialist, racking up 114 in just 49 innings this season.

Morris, meanwhile, has an ERA of 1.15 and has thrown 22 complete games with four no-hitters and one perfect game.

She’s also batting .506 with a team-high 47 RBIs, and has struck out 248 batters in 158.1 innings work.

Dolcini also has remarkable stats, and is achieving them at the highest level.

Dolcini and the Longhorns have knocked off numerous highly-ranked teams, including a memorable victory over the defending national champs and No. 1 team in the nation, Oklahoma, earlier this season, a victory that ended a 40-game winning streak.

Last weekend, Dolcini led the Texas women to a victory over No. 4 Arkansas in an elimination game at the Super Regionals.

University of Texas Athletics – Hailey Dolcini

For the season, she is 22-10 with an ERA of 2.19 and she has struck out 210 batters in 195 innings.

And with what she’s achieved and how she’s achieved it, she has earned the respect and admiration of the entire county.

“It is not always about where you come from, but it is about hard work, dedication, love for the game, about never giving in, and a ‘when you get knocked down, how do you respond’ attitude … and a support group that believes in you and is willing to push you to achieve your dreams,” her former Fortuna High head coach Eric Helms said. “This young woman has it all. I couldn’t be prouder as a coach, a friend and a community member.”

Helms also remembers all the hard work Dolcini put in during her high school days, something she is well-known for.

“It’s so awesome now to see her competing for the biggest prize in college softball,” he added.

The Longhorns play UCLA at 9 a.m., while the Loggers play at Monterey at 4 p.m.

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