By Ray Hamill — One Little 4 school will be crowned a North Coast Section champion on Saturday afternoon, the only question is which one.
League rivals St. Bernard’s and Ferndale will face off for the fifth time this season in the Division-6 baseball championship game at Crusader Field at 1 p.m.
The No. 1 seeded Crusaders have won all four previous meetings between the two schools this spring, including three shutouts.
“I have a lot of respect for coach (Justin) Andersen. He’s a good baseball coach and they’ve got a good young team,” Tomlin said. “Parker Prior is a really tough baseball player who does a lot of things for them, and (freshman) Prescott Langer has brought an added dimension for them.”
Playing for a section championship is nothing new for Tomlin and Andersen, who were teammates at St. Bernard’s in an NCS football final back in the 1990s, with QB Tomlin throwing a pair of TD passes to receiver Andersen in that game.
On Saturday, however, they will renew their rivalry and the Ferndale coach knows his team will have to play one of its best games of the season if the No. 2 Cats are going to upset the odds against the top seeds and defending section champs.
“And we have to stay ahead against their pitchers. We can’t fall behind in the count.”
Andersen is undecided on who he will start on the mound for the big showdown, but Tomlin says he will go with team ace Tyler Dimmick, who is enjoying an outstanding senior season on a young team that features several freshmen in key roles.
Dimmick is 10-2 on the season with a save and remarkably has 104 strikeouts to just five walks.
“Just unbelievable numbers,” Tomlin said. “He’s meant a lot to our program.”
After graduating 10 Seniors from last season’s NorCal state championship roster, Tomlin admits he did not expect to be back in the NCS final so soon, but his young roster has come together quicker than expected on the way to a 19-8 record.
The Cats, meanwhile, are 9-8 after playing just 17 games this spring because of the weather instead of the normal 25 or 27 at this stage.
But despite the lack of game time, Andersen says he has been impressed with the progress his players have made and is excited to see his players in contention for the program’s first NCS title since 2017.
“It was a weird year for everybody,” he said. “But the fact that they continued to grind it out and get better, I’m just proud of the way they have progressed the last couple of weeks.
“It’s always our goal to be in (an NCS championship game) at the end of the year, and the fact that it’s against St. Bernard’s and we get another shot at them makes it even better.”
The Crusaders have won an NCS record 14 section championships in the sport, while Ferndale has won four.
Two of the six weekend NCS championship games will be played in Humboldt County, with Arcata also hosting Justin-Siena in the Division-4 final at the Arcata Ball Park at 7 p.m.
“I think it’s exciting for Humboldt County and it talks of the quality of baseball up here,” Tomlin said.