By Ray Hamill — The 2021/22 school year in sports is one the Crusaders won’t easily forget, with a lot of success on multiple fronts, including a couple of history-setting campaigns.
Two St. Bernard’s teams — boys basketball and baseball — won North Coast Section and CIF NorCal championship doubles, the first-ever for H-DNL boys teams in either sport.
For their historic achievements, the St. Bernard’s baseball team is the 2021/22 Humboldt Sports High School Team of the Year.
What separated this Crusaders team from the rest of a worthy field of candidates for our team of the year was not just their incredible success but also the fact they achieved it by overwhelming much larger schools, and that they did so in dramatic and thrilling circumstances.
After cruising through league play and the section playoffs, the Crusaders were bumped up three full divisions for the NorCal playoffs and placed in the Division-3 bracket, news that head coach Matt Tomlin described at the time as a “punch to the gut.”
The players and coaches, however, responded to the challenge in the best way possible by knocking off a pair of schools that averaged around 3,200 students to reach the NorCal decider.
And they didn’t stop there.
In the championship showdown against Alpha Charter, they rallied from an early 6-2 deficit to pull out a thrilling 7-6 victory.
“Man, you’ve just got to give it up to those kids,” Tomlin said after the historic victory. “They beat three powerhouse programs and it just says so much about the kids and our (principal) Paul Shanahan and the teachers and staff at the school. Today signified what ‘One Family’ means.”
Indeed, it was a spring the SB family won’t easily forget and a special team that left its mark.
“What a special, special team, and what they accomplished was amazing,” Tomlin said when told that the Crusaders had been named our high school team of the year. “All the stars aligned. It was just an amazing senior class and we had a great pitching staff. We had all the pieces.”
But while a deep pitching staff was instrumental in the team’s success, that’s not the only thing Tomlin says he will remember about this group.
“I’ll always remember that pitching staff. We went five or six deep,” he said. “But this team was the best hitting team I’ve ever had at St. Bernard’s and to combine that with that pitching staff …”
Tomlin’s assistant coaches all played a role, including legendary pitching coach Greg Shanahan, who has been doing an incredible job at the school for more than three decades, as well as Dan Joyner, Jason Gable, Arron Lee and Vernon Brown.
A big shoutout to our awards sponsors, Mendes Supply Company, Six Rivers Property Management and The Stove Doctors, for their support, as well as to Sports World in Eureka for helping with the plaques.