5/18: The Varsity Giants concluded the regular season in what is now becoming ‘Regular Fashion’ as MCAL Champions. For the third time in the last four years, Redwood was awarded the MCAL Championship Banner which will be hoisted in the gym and displayed proudly among the other twenty-five baseball championship banners.
After working through a rough patch this season where the Giants lost three straight games and dropped in the standings from a tie for first place to squeaking into the playoffs as the fifth seed, the Giants needed to win three games in four days to be MCAL Co-Champions and earn the automatic NCS bid.
Redwood started the week on the road on Tuesday and defeated San Marin on a cold, windy, typical spring day in Northern Novato. After pitching four strong innings, Robbie Wilson was relieved by Senior Oliver Pearson who would earn the win as the pitcher of record in the top of the seventh when Jackson Barry broke a 2-2 deadlock by dropping a perfect suicide squeeze scoring Josh Cohen from third for the winning run. Nick Welch earned the save by pitching a scoreless seventh inning. Dane Goodman, Josh Cohen, Jack Morken, Luke Zlatunich, Drew Jacks, Genki LeClair all had hits for the Giants and Mackie Skall banged out two hits. Goodman, Morken and Barry were responsible for knocking in the Giants runs that were scored by Cohen, Zlatunich and Jacks.
The Giants faced off against Tamalpais on Thursday night under the lights at Albert Park. Redwood split their games with Tam during the regular season and would have to beat their ace, Jack Loder, to get to the Championship game. Sophomore Nick Welch would get the call on the mound and he answered the call by pithing an absolute gem, yielding no hits in five and a third innings of work. After Welch walked the three batters to load the bases in the sixth, Head Coach Mike Firenzi made the tough call of pulling him for Oliver Pearson. “I think it’s the first time I’ve ever pulled a pitcher out of a no-hitter, but his pitch count was getting up there and I didn’t want to push the pitch count limit…he exceeded my expectations.” Firenzi said after the game. Welch was greeted by a standing ovation as he left the field by the Redwood faithful and even a few Tamalpais fans with the Giants up 4-0. With the bases juiced, Pearson would give up a single that was turned into a double after a bobble in left, and after the dust settled, three Tam runners had crossed the plate. Pearson would lock down the inning by inducing a line-out to Josh Cohen and a strike out to end the inning and would end the game by striking out the side in the bottom of the seventh.
Dane Goodman, Josh Cohen, Mackie Skall, Jackson Barry, Luke Zlatunich and Genki LeClair all had hits for the Giants with Drew Jacks adding two. Barry, and LeClair had RBI’s and Goodman, Cohen, Jacks and Zlatunich were responsible for scoring the Giants runs.
The Giants ‘Cinderella Story’ would be concluded tonight as the Giants would face off against the Drake Pirates who mowed through the NCS DIII Championships last year and mowed through the MCAL season this year, taking the Round-Robin MCAL Championship with a record of 15-3. Drake made sure to pitch their ace, Ryan McLaughlin, just three innings in the semi-final game against Branson so that he would be able to pitch seven innings in the championship tonight. This is a lock-tight strategy if the game goes seven innings. McLaughlin, a sure bet to win Pitcher of the Year honors, dominated the league this year with a 1.04 ERA in a whopping seventy-four innings pitched and earned nine of the Pirates league wins. As fate would have it, Redwood was able to take the game into extra innings and test Drake’s bullpen by scoring a run in the top of the sixth after Dane Goodman led off the inning with a hot smash to the third baseman that was too hot to handle. Josh Cohen sent Goodman to second on a sacrifice bunt. Goodman was cut off at the plate after Mackie Skall ripped a ball to left and a perfect strike to the catcher left the Giants with two outs and Jack Morken holding the fate of the Giants in his hands. Morken answered, lacing a seed to the left-center gap, plating Skall and tying the game 1-1 going into the bottom of the sixth.
Robbie Wilson pitched three strong innings for the Giants and handed the ball to Oliver Pearson. Pearson gave up a run but sent the Pirates down in order in the bottom of the sixth by striking out the side. Luke Zlatunich singled with an out in the top of the seventh, but was erased on a 6-4-3 double play to take the game to the bottom of the seventh. Pearson struck out the lead off batter and then would rely on his defense for the next two outs. Pascal Brassey made a great play on a shot to short for the second out and the inning ended on a hot smash to third, similar to the shot Goodman hit in the top of the sixth, but Jackson Barry short hopped it and tossed to first to end the inning.
Drake would now have to go to the bullpen in the top of the eighth because McLaughlin pitched his tenth inning of the week and the Giants capitalized. Dane Goodman led off the inning with a walk. Josh Cohen followed with a walk and Mackie Skall drove a 1-1 fastball to center scoring Goodman, putting the Giants up 2-1. Jack Morken hit a high-hopper over the first baseman’s head, scoring Cohen. Jackson Barry then tallied his third hit of the day, scoring Skall, putting the Giants up 4-1.
Pearson gave up a lead off single in the bottom of the eight, but the boisterous Drake crowd was silenced when Dane Goodman tracked down a bomb to the right-center gap that looked like a sure triple off of the bat. Pearson struck out the final two batters he faced, securing the MCAL Pennant for the Giants, ending the week with two wins and a save.
The Giants future now rests in the hands of the NCS Seeding Committee with hopes of securing a first round home game next week. The question that soon will be answered is, will this Cinderella take home only the MCAL Banner or will they take home another NCS title?