Preparatory sports | 4 HDNL teams in Sectional Championship matches – Times-Standard

St. Bernard third baseman Mateo Gutierrez connects for a hit earlier this year. (Jose Quezada, HUMEDIA/For the Times-Standard)

baseball | St. Bernard hosts Ferndale for NCS Division VI title

The defending champion Crusaders will face rival Little 4 Ferndale for the North Coast Section Division VI championship at Crusader Field on Saturday. The 9-8 Wildcats will look to take down defending NCS and NorCal champion St. Bernard’s with the game scheduled for 1 p.m.

Ferndale is in search of its first section title in six years, when the Wildcats beat Rincon Valley Christian 7-3 to win the NCS Championship in 2017. The Wildcats earned a 6-5 win over San Domenico in semi- final to win the title match.

But St. Bernard’s is the clear favorite of the game. The Crusaders hold a 19-8 record, higher for most teams in the division, but below the elite standard that is the benchmark for the program. Still, St. Bernard is on course for a second straight section title and potentially a second straight state title.

The Crusaders have been undefeated in the league this year and topped their four wins over the Wildcats this season. On the road, St. Bernard’s won the first two meetings against Ferndale 10-4 and 10-0. Then earlier this month, the Crusaders swept the season streak with a pair of shutout wins.

But Saint-Bernard will have to prove once again that he is the best dog in the Petits 4 to secure a section title. And the underdog Wildcats will try to put the previous four losses behind them and focus on pulling off the upset and securing the biggest win in the program’s recent history.

baseball | Tigers to host sectional title at Arcata Ball Park

The Arcata Tigers are the latest team to break out of the Big 5 after winning the final round against Del Norte on Wednesday. The Tigers will now host Justin-Siena in the NCS Division IV Championship at Arcata Ball Park on Saturday night.

In the semi-final match, Arcata came first on the board with a run in the third to take a 1-0 lead. Del Norte tied it at 1-1 in the fifth inning when Cooper Maxwell drove Sylas Sampels. But the Tigers ended things with one more run in the bottom of the seventh to secure the 2-1 win and a berth in the championship game.

Justin-Siena earned a spot with his own narrow win over Piedmont. The Braves took an 11-7 lead over the Highlanders going into the final inning but held off a late push to hold on to the 11-10 victory.

It sets up an exciting final between the 23-6 Tigers and the 15-9 Braves. Despite losing the regular season league championship to Fortuna, Arcata cemented their status as the Big 5’s top team by surviving the playoff gauntlet. After being upset in the quarterfinals of the sectional playoffs last season, the Tigers seem determined to avenge that loss this year. The Tigers are just one win away from their first section title since 2019.

Softball | Del Norte takes on Cardinal Newman for the title on Friday

With a Humboldt Del Norte League team in every NCS Division IV Softball Playoff semifinal game, it was hoped that at least one team would qualify for the championship. Fortuna’s dreams of being that team were quickly dashed by Cardinal Newman in a 7-0 loss on Tuesday.

But the Del Norte Warriors proved their mettle with a 6-3 victory over Salesian College Prep, leaving them as the final challenger to the dominant Cardinals. The result isn’t entirely unexpected given that Del Norte and Cardinal Newman were the first two seeds in the tournament, but it does set up an exciting final between the two top programs on the North Shore.

While Cardinal Newman has always been a strong favourite, the team has demonstrated dominance this post-season that makes them invulnerable to any type of upset. The Cardinals did not allow a run in the sectional playoffs and outscored their opponents 31-0. Before beating Fortuna, Cardinal Newman beat Swett 24-0 in the quarterfinals.

Despite this recent dominance, Del Norte actually holds a better overall pregame record. The Warriors are 19-6 this season down from 17-9. Of course, the difficulty of the calendar and of the experience favors Cardinal Newman. But it’s far from unprecedented for an HDNL team to beat the mighty Cardinals as McKinleyville knocked out the team last season en route to a division title.

The Warriors will have to pull off the upset on the road as they make the long trip from Crescent City to Santa Rosa Junior College for the championship game on Friday night. With a win, Del Norte will once again prove that the HDNL is still the best softball league in the region.

Jake Matson can be reached at 707-441-0526.

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