With the score tied at 8 in the bottom of the seventh, no outs and the bases loaded, Del Norte head coach Travis Johnson had no doubt about what to do with his leadoff hitter, sophomore Austin Healy, coming to the plate.
A suicide squeeze.
“We had the perfect guy at the plate, and the perfect guy at third for running,” Johnson said. “It was just the right call to make. I knew Healy would lay the bunt down.”
Johnson was right. Healy laid down a bunt that trickled up the third base line. Del Norte outfielder Mathew Coopman got a great jump at third base and rushed home for the game winning run well before St. Bernard’s got the ball back to the plate.
The suicide squeeze play gave Del Norte the 9-8 victory, and a clean sweep of St. Bernard’s in the season opening doubleheader at Del Norte after the Warriors took game one 4-0.
Coopman got Del Norte going in the bottom of the seventh inning with a leadoff walk. That wrestled some of the momentum away from the Crusaders after St. Bernard’s used a three-run rally in the top half of the inning to tie the game back up.
Outfielder Cole Bellatti followed Coopman’s walk with a bunt single, his second of the day. Outfielder Dylan Pease then drew a walk to load the bases with no outs for Healy.
Healy finished the day with a team-high 3 RBI after going 4-for-7 in both games. Bellatti was 4-for-6 with 2 RBI and Johnny Calderon was 3-for-6 to lead the Warriors offensively.
Del Norte amassed 16 hits en route to 13 runs. It was a good day for an offense that struggled to score runs much of last season.
“That was an improvement from last year,” Johnson said. “We only scored 46 runs all year last year, so that is a big improvement.”
While game one featured late-game theatrics, Del Norte pitcher Johnny Calderon took most of the drama out of game one with his arm.
Calderon kept the St. Bernard’s hitters frustrated throughout game one, allowing just five baserunners in the game. He struck out nine hitters while allowing just two hits and two walks in his complete-game shutout.
“It was almost perfect,” Johnson said. “A two-hit shutout, you can’t get much better than that. His curveball was working, his fastball — everything was working for him. His location was right on the money.”
Behind Calderon, the Del Norte defense committed just one error and helped out their pitcher with several diving plays.
“The defense really stands out,” Johnson said. “The kids really showed up to play, especially in the first game. They were like a brick wall, they just stopped everything. In the second game, we gave them a few that we shouldn’t have. But they stayed in there. They hung in and they kept coming back. That is all I can ask for.”
The Warriors return to the diamond today for a nonconference road game at Illinois Valley.