3/03/23: One crooked inning was all it took for the Gauchos of Casa Grande High School to hand the Redwood Varsity Baseball Giants their first loss of the young 2023 season. With Redwood up by 2-1 through five innings, the Gauchos scored five runs in the top of the 6th, then held on to win by a score of 6-4.
One day after shining on the road against the Petaluma Trojans, the Giants’ pitching couldn’t find the same mound magic at home. A quartet of Redwood hurlers issued 9 walks, hit 4 batters, and generally struggled to find the strike zone.
Redwood starting pitcher Rex Solle ran hot and cold through four innings, walking the bases full in the top of the 1st, but settling in by the 3rd inning to strike out the side 1-2-3. Dishing a whopping 40 pitches in that first frame, Solle managed somehow to hold the Gauchos to just one run, blemished only by right fielder Zach Baird, who singled to right with the bases loaded.
Jack Moseley, the Giants’ freshman right fielder, helped limit the damage in the first as he ranged back on a long fly ball to right-center by stout Gaucho first baseman Alex Cruz. At the last minute, and with the wall fast approaching, Moseley raised his long left arm on the backhand to corral the blast.
Redwood hitters were busy at the plate all day, putting runners into scoring position in every inning but one. In the bottom of the 2nd, catcher Rory Coughlin belted a triple into the gap in left-center off Gaucho starting pitcher Austin Steeves, but was thrown out at the plate on the very next play, trying to score on Giants center fielder Gavin Soper’s sharp grounder to third.
In the 3rd, Giants second baseman Theo Trono legged out a grounder to short, then moved to second on a perfect sacrifice bunt by shortstop Danil Wells (his first of two on the day). When first baseman Rory Minty dropped a single into center field, Trono came racing around to score, tying up the game 1-1 with a head-first slide.
Solle made things interesting again in the top of the 4th, fanning Baird on a sweeping curveball before walking two batters, hitting one, and uncorking a pair of wild pitches to load the bases with two outs. The junior right-hander emerged unscathed, however, getting Gaucho catcher JT Summers to ground sharply to third, where Redwood’s Lucas Ghio fired across to Minty at first to retire the side.
The Gauchos also threatened in the top of the 5th against Giants reliever Matthew Knauer, but were denied by Moseley, who snagged a curving fly ball down the right field line for the second out, then reached down below his knees to pluck a sinking line drive from the air for out number three.
Sparkplug Trono got things going again in the bottom of the 5th for Redwood against Gaucho reliever Wyatt Abramson, leading off with a double into the left-center field gap, then taking third on another perfect sacrifice bunt by Wells. Trono nearly scored when Abramson pitched wildly behind Minty’s back, and was forced to retreat only when the ball caromed directly off the backstop and back to Summers.
With one out, and runners on first and third, Resnick sent a grounder into the hole, where Gaucho shortstop Jordan Giacomini gloved it and wheeled to second in hopes of starting an inning-ending double play. But that was not to be, as Resnick narrowly beat out the throw at first, scoring Trono and eliciting a howl of protest from Casa Grande’s head coach. His arguments notwithstanding, the 5th inning ended with the Giants up 2-1.
That lead was short-lived, however, as Knauer started the 6th inning by drilling one batter, then walking another, before giving way to reliever Max Paul with one out. Paul started no better, walking Steeves (now in center field; Steeves walked four times on the day, and finished 1-for-1 in 5 appearances) to load the bases. Summers then lifted a ball to Soper in center field, deep enough to score the runner from third, tying the score 2-2 with two outs, and bringing the hefty Cruz to the plate with runners on first and second.
When Cruz powered yet another ball out in the direction of Moseley, who had robbed him at the wall at the start of the game, it appeared that history might repeat itself, and that the Giants might escape the inning. This time, however, turned out differently. Moseley started in, then realized that backspin on the ball might carry it over his head. Shooting his glove up at the last minute, Moseley couldn’t contain the ball, and watched it squirt out of his grasp and roll behind him.
The runners, moving on contact with two outs, both scored easily, unlocking the score at 4-2. When Abramson followed with a line drive single to left making it 5-2, the wind seemed to have been sucked out of Redwood’s sails.
Paul gave way on the mound to Chas Veley, who promptly picked Abramson off at first (appearing to end the inning), but was called for a balk . The breaks were all going the Gauchos’ way. Right fielder Kalen Clemmens then proceeded to take advantage of his free at-bat by dropping a flare just over third base and inside the left field line to pad the Gaucho lead at 6-2.
Redwood continued to battle, though, loading the bases in the bottom of the 6th with one out. Wells scored Solle on a grounder to third, drawing the Giants within 6-3, before Minty was called out looking . Satisfied with the call, and with his lead, the Casa Grande coach began to argue again – this time to call the game for darkness, while the clock continued to tick, and the temperature dipped into the 40’s. As before, his arguments went unheeded.
The Gauchos loaded the bases on Veley in the top of the 7th, but Abramson’s fly ball to Soper finally ended their afternoon at the plate.
In the bottom of the 7th, with two outs, in an eerie near-darkness, Soper singled up the middle to drive in Resnick and bring the Giants within two. And when Soper advanced to second on a passed ball, it seemed that maybe, just maybe, they had a chance to tie it up. But once Solle swung and missed at a last Abramson curveball, the dim red lights on the scoreboard reading 6-4 were all that was left to see.
The loss brings the Giants to 4-1 on the season (0-0 MCAL). They kick off league play next Tuesday in Novato at San Marin, before returning home to host the Mustangs on Thursday.