As expected, the St. Bernard’s Crusaders swept a pair of games at Hoopa on Thursday to win the Little 4 championship, although they needed a little help from Ferndale to secure it outright.
St. Bernard’s came into the day tied with South Fork atop the standings, but with the Cubs splitting a doubleheader at home to Ferndale they saw any hopes of sharing the title slip away.
Ferndale’s Jenner Christiansen had the offensive highlight of the day with two home runs in game two.
The league victory for the Crusaders was particularly gratifying considering the quality of this year’s Little 4 and in particular the pitching.
“There was really good competition in the league this year,” St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said. “Just outstanding pitching for Ferndale and South Fork, and for us to win in such great competition was really nice. I’m really proud of our players.”
St. Bernard’s 10, Hoopa 0
St. Bernard’s 10, Hoopa 1
The Crusaders got some outstanding pitching themselves from several players on the way to the sweep, including three who combined for a no-hitter in the opener.
Caleb Ruiz struck out eight in three innings for the win in game one, with freshman Taholo Vainuku-Johnson and Brody Tomlin pitching well in relief, the latter making his debut on the mound.
Bode Joyner, Logan Petrusha, Cole Petrusha and Lane Thrap all threw in the nightcap, the latter making his first appearance in a month after battling an arm injury.
“Seven guys took the mound for us today and they all pitched outstanding,” Matt Tomlin said.
Ruiz, Joyner, Thrap and Hunter Davis each had multiple hits in the opener, including doubles for Ruiz, Joyner and Davis.
Davis, Joyner and Thrap had two more hits each in the nightcap, including a triple by Davis.
Cole Petrusha also had two hits in game two, while Peyton Smith was 1-for-5 with two RBIs.
St. Bernard’s closes out league play at 9-3, and improved to 16-8 overall.
The Crusaders receive the No. 1 seed for the Little 4 for next week’s Charles Lakin Tournament and will have a bye in the opening round.
Hoopa closes out the season winless at 0-17, but earned the respect of the St. Bernard’s head coach.
“Hats off to (Hoopa head coach) John Snell,” he said. “He’s really changed the culture of that program. They’re playing hard and they’re having fun.”
Junior Ben Ray had an RBI hit for Hoopa.
Ferndale 1, South Fork 2
Ferndale 8, South Fork 6
The Cubs needed to win both games in order to share the Little 4 championship, and they made a battle of it, rallying from an 8-1 deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning of game two before falling just short.
CJ Van Meter turned in another strong performance on the mound for the win in game one, while also driving in the winning run with a walk-off base hit in the bottom of the seventh.
“It really came down to CJ being the difference in that game,” Ferndale head coach Justin Andersen said.
Cooper Scott finished 2-for-3 and scored both South Fork runs, while Cody Wyatt drove in the first run.
“CJ pitched well, and we played good defense again,” South Fork head coach Corky Coffelt said.
Austin Hughes got the loss on the mound despite another strong effort from the senior, who also was 1-for-3 with an RBI on offense.
Landon Gomes got the win for the Cats in the nightcap, allowing four hits and three walks, while striking out eight.
“He was dealing through six,” Andersen said. “Up until the seventh, it was probably the best he’s thrown all year.”
Christensen led the Cats at the plate, finishing 2-for-3 with two home runs, three RBIs and three runs.
Gomes was 2-for-4, while Hughes and Shaun Leonardo each had a hit and an RBI.
For South Fork, Scott was 2-for-3 with a double, while Kaydon Pogue, Tanner Curran and Van Meter each had a hit, including a double by Pogue.
“We had a good (seventh) inning,” Coffelt said. “We were one hit away from tying the game. I just wish we had got going earlier.”
South Fork closed out league play with a record of 8-4 and is 13-5 overall, while Ferndale closed out the Little 4 at 7-5 and is 10-10 overall.
Ray Hamill writes at humboldtsports.com, where you can read lots more about sports in Humboldt County.