By Ray Hamill — It was a performance for the ages to cap a season for the ages.
And it was a moment quite probably as memorable as any in a long and very distinguished St. Bernard’s sports history.
Playing in the first-ever CIF NorCal Division-3 baseball championship game, the St. Bernard’s boys pulled out a thrilling 7-6 victory over Alpha Charter at Crusader Field on Monday.
They had to fight all the way for this one, overcoming not just a battle-hardened and talented Angels team, but also an abundance of their own miscues early in the game that enabled the visitors to open up a 6-2 lead midway through the third inning.
But the Crusaders would not be denied.
And more to the point, pitcher Nick Dugan would not be denied.
The Stanford-bound senior was sensational on his way to a third NorCal victory on the mound in eight days.
Dugan will be remembered as one of the greatest pitchers to come out of the H-DNL and his final game will be remembered as one of his greatest ever performances for the Crusaders.
He came in to relieve starter Aidan Dorsch with two outs in the third and he struck out all 13 batters he faced to close out the game and secure the victory and a first-ever NorCal championship for the program.
It was an epic performance on the biggest stage of all and an appropriate way to close out his time at St. Bernard’s, with his 92 MPH fastball too hot for the visiting bats.
Dorsch too was outstanding in his final high school game.
The senior finished 3-for-4 at the plate and drove in five of his team’s seven runs, giving his teammates a big lift on multiple occasions.
The SB defense struggled early on, with errors leading to unearned runs in the second and third innings as the Angels began to establish control.
They also came out swinging the bats and had three hits in the top of the first inning, although they only plated one run from that and left a couple of base runners stranded.
The Crusaders responded immediately in the bottom half of the inning when Dorsch doubled in a pair of runs for a 2-1 lead, after Dugan had doubled and Cayden Lee had reached on an error.
A two-run Derrick Fisher home run saw the Angels re-take the lead in the top of the second, and a packed house began to get the feeling this was going to be a back-and-forth type of afternoon.
Alpha Charter, however, added three more runs in the third to open up a four-run cushion and seemed to be taking control.
Dorsch responded with a massive home run to left center field in the bottom of the third, his fifth of the season, to pull the home team back within three.
The Crusaders’ offense seemed to feed off what Dugan was doing on the mound, and they re-took the lead with four more runs in the bottom of the fourth, scoring two runs on a double by Dugan and adding two more on a Dorsch base hit on the very next at-bat.
Tyler Dimmick and Braeden Zimmerman each also had base hits in the big inning.
After re-taking the lead, there was no going back for the Crusaders, not with Dugan dealing as effectively as he was.
Zimmerman would finish 2-for-3 and also reached base on a hit-by-pitch, while Drew Vizenor and Perry Bailey each also had a base hit and Dugan was 2-for-4.
More to come on this game …