They did it! For the 5th time in Redwood Baseball history, the Giants are NCS Champions. “I’ve coached a lot of teams with different personalities in my 21 years of coaching high school baseball, and I have never seen anything like this group of kids. There is something about this team…they are special.”, Head Coach Firenzi said after the game. “All year long they have done just enough to win. If they score 1 run, we score 2. If they score 13 runs, we’ll score 14. That’s the way it’s been all year.” Friday night was no different as it took 11 innings and over 3 hours for the NCS Division II High School Baseball Champion to be crowned with the Giants coming out on top beating the Livermore Cowboys, 5-4 under the lights at a packed Albert Park.
After a lead off single, a sacrifice bunt, a steal of 3rd, and sacrifice fly, Livermore went up 1-0 before the crowd settled in after player introductions and the National Anthem. Redwood answered in bottom of the frame. Adam Hussain (get used to that name) hit a 2-out ground ball to 3rd and when the throw to first pulled the 1st baseman off the bag, a hustling Riley Overend scored from 3rd. Starting pitcher Zach Cohen settled in and sent the Cowboys down in order in the top of the 2nd. Zach Kopstein and Aaron Dorfler both singled in the bottom of the inning, but the Giants couldn’t capitalize as they were left on 2nd and 3rd. The Cowboys dropped a crooked number in the top of the 3rd, scoring 2 runs and going up 3-1. Despite a Adam Hussain double, the Giants again left a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the inning. After 3 innings, the score was 3-1 in favor of the Cowboys and Redwood had left 5 runners in scoring position. Kopstein and Dorfler would again both single in the bottom of the 4th and after Devon Pence walked loading the bases, MCAL Batting Champion Riley Overend singled to left, scoring Nick Gillies (running for Kopstein) and Aaron Dorfler. Cowboys 3, Giants 3. In the top of the 5th, Tyler Silva rocked a 2-0 fastball down the left field line sending Giants left field Aaron Dorfler in a full sprint. After getting the ball in to the infield, Aaron would go down with a hamstring injury and he was replaced by Ryan Dudgeon. After a Giants error the momentum seemed to be shifting the Cowboys way, when they threatened with runners on 2nd and 3rd and 1 out and their crowd supported them, as they began to chant “Let’s go Cowboys!”. However, the Giants partisan crowd retaliated with a “Let’s go Redwood!” chant that drowned out the Cowboy crowd and could probably be heard in Livermore. “By far, this is the loudest I have ever heard a crowd at Albert Park.’ Coach Tim Grayson said (actually yelled) over the deafening crowd. Firenzi elected to intentionally walk Ryan Ruley who already had ripped a double in the game, loading the bases but putting the double play in order. And the crowd grew louder, “LET’S GO REDWOOD!!!”. Cohen worked out of the inning with a fly out to right fielder Aubrey Sine and another, testing Ryan Dudgeon in left, ending the day for Cohen as he left the game after throwing 78 pitches. Instead of opting for the Giants senior ace Tyler Peck (who had 3 innings left), Firenzi opted for his other junior ace, Zach Kopstein to potentially close out the game.
Kopstein and Triantos were dominant from the mound, pitching scoreless frames in the 5th and 6th. However, Kopstein was touched for a run in the top of the 7th putting the Cowboys up 4-3 and just 3 Giant outs standing between them and the Cowboys 1st NCS Championship. Triantos retired the 1st batter he saw in the bottom of the 7th, and would need to be lifted as he reached the 10 innings pitched limit. Triantos received a rousing ovation from the crowd and as Ryan Ruley took his warm up pitches, Firenzi approached the first 2 hitters Ruley would face, Adam Hussain and Eric Doctor. Before Firenzi could utter his best and most inspirational speech he would ever give, they confidently said “Don’t worry coach, we got this.” Firenzi just nodded and walked back to the 3rd base coaches box. Hussain then ripped a 2-1 pitch down the left field line for a double and Eric Doctor tied the score when he singled to center scoring the sliding Hussain from 2nd on a close play at the plate. Cowboys 4, Giants 4. Extra innings. “We got this.”
In the top of the 9th the Giants showed off their defensive skills. Devon Pence took away a sure hit when he ranged to his right and fired a laser across the diamond, recording the assist by a half of a step. Adam Hussain would later flash his glove with 2 outs and a runner moving on the pitch. Cowboy Kevin Key roped a line drive in the gap that looked like it would go for extra bases and give Livermore the lead. Hussain read it perfectly off the bat and in a dead sprint, laid out and made what turned out to be a game-saving diving catch as the Giants didn’t score in the bottom of the frame.
The score remained 4-4 and before the Giants hit the field to play defense in the top of the 10th Kopstein told his teammates, “I’ll get you a quick inning.” Zach struck out the side in 9 pitches. The Giants couldn’t close it out in the bottom of the 10th and when Zach walked the lead-off hitter in the top of the 11th and hit the 3rd batter he faced in the inning, Firenzi went to his senior ace, Tyler Peck. Kopstein pitched 5 1/3 innings and threw 102 pitches in a valiant effort. Peck induced a hard grounder that was fielded by the slick fielding Devon Pence who recorded a fielder’s choice at 2nd leaving runners on 1st and 3rd. The Cowboys stole 2nd putting runners on 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs. On the 2nd pitch to the next batter, Livermore may have gone to the ‘Redwood Archive’ when the runner on 2nd made his way towards 3rd, reminiscent of the play Redwood ran in 1977 against Taiwan when they scored their only run of the game in front of an estimated 4,000 fans at Endriss Field. The Livermore runner on 2nd started his way towards 3rd and Parker Laret fired a rocket to Riley Overend. As the runner on 3rd crept towards the plate, Riley ran towards him and as soon as he broke towards the plate, he fired a strike to catcher Parker Laret who dropped the tag ending the threat.
With 1 out in the bottom of the 11th, Riley Overend was hit by a pitch putting him on 1st and then advanced to 2nd on a ground out to 3rd. Overend read a 1-0 curve-ball in the dirt perfectly and advanced to 3rd. Aubrey Sine then walked, setting the stage for Adam Hussain. With runners on 1st and 3rd, Hussain hit a high chopper to 3rd. Adam turned on the jets and slid into 1st head-first leaving a cloud of dust and over 1,000 fans holding their breath waiting for the call as Overend crossed the plate. When the umpire signaled ‘Safe’, Albert Park erupted. Players, students, and parents stormed the field as the Varsity Giants piled up between home and 1st. “I wanted to win this game so bad.’ Overend said during the game and after to an IJ reporter. Overend ended the day with a hit, an RBI and scored 2 of the Giants runs. Zach Kopstein and Aaron Dorfler both had 2 hits with Eric Doctor adding 3 to the Giants total. Senior Adam Hussain ended the night with a run scored, an RBI and 4 hits. Tyler Peck earned 13th win of the season. Check out our story later on all of the accolades the 2015 Redwood Giants Baseball Program earned. Most notably, their 1st NCS Championship in 18 years.