There was nothing officially decided in the Little 4 race on Saturday, but after a doubleheader split at home to South Fork, there is no doubt the St. Bernard’s Crusaders are in pole position with two games remaining each.
South Fork won the opener 1-0 in eight innings, another brilliant pitchers’ duel, before St. Bernard’s rallied to take a back-and-forth second game, pulling away late for a 9-5 win.
Hunter Davis hit two home runs in the second game, lifting his team to a come-from-behind victory.
The split leaves both teams at 7-3 in the Little 4, but the Cubs still have two games against a competitive Ferndale team that is 6-4 in league play, while the Crusaders will be heavily favored to win their final two games against a winless Hoopa team that has struggled this spring.
Game one was another thriller between two of the top high school pitchers on the North Coast, with South Fork’s CJ Van Meter edging St. Bernard’s Caleb Ruiz.
“It was just a classic duel between two great pitchers,” St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said. “But we came up on the short and you’ve got to tip your cap to them.”
Ruiz, who has been outstanding all season, was officially credited with giving up a hit, although Tomlin believes it should have been an error on the defense.
He was pulled after 7.2 innings because of his pitch count.
Van Meter, who has been as impressive this spring, pitched all eight innings for the win.
He gave up one hit.
Scott Cooper drove in the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth, scoring Sean Hassall-Hoss, who had been walked by Ruiz to lead off the inning.
“We played pretty outstanding in the first game,” South Fork head coach Corky Coffelt said. “And we faced a good pitcher.”
The second game was all about Davis, on both sides of the plate.
The junior catcher twice tied the game with his home runs, at 1-1 and at 4-4, the latter immediately after the Cubs had opened up a two-run lead with three runs in the top of the fifth.
“Just the momentum he gave us with those shots,” Tomlin said. “It was just a great performance by Hunter Davis.”
Davis also had an outstanding day defensively.
Kaydon Pogue hit a two-RBI double to cap a three-run fifth for the visitors and give them a 4-2 lead.
It was short lived when Davis hit a two-run blast in the bottom half of the inning to tie the game, before a Cayden Lee RBI single made it 5-4 for the home team.
The Cubs responded themselves in the top of the sixth when Cody Wyatt singled to score Scott, who had walked, tying the game again at 5-5.
The home team, however, pulled away with four runs in the bottom half of the inning.
Davis finished the game 3-for-3 with three RBIs, while Ruiz was 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI.
Teammate Bode Joyner was 2-for-3 with a double, while Cole Petrusha was 1-for-3 with a pair of RBIs.
Lane Thrap and Braedan Zimmerman each also had a hit.
For South Fork, Wyatt finished the game 3-for-4, while Pogue was 2-for-4 and Cooper Scott and Crue Contreras each had a hit,.
“We’re battling a couple of injuries right now, and we’ve got 10 days off to get ready for Ferndale,” Coffelt said. “We need to sweep.”
St. Bernard’s is now 14-7 overall, while South Fork is 11-4.
Ray Hamill writes at humboldtsports.com, where you can read lots more about sports in Humboldt County.