Combined 1-hitter lifts Redwood JV over Casa Grande

Starting pitcher Cole Engstrom and reliever Max Paul, backed by a sparkling defense, teamed up to spin a one-hitter, as Redwood’s JV Baseball Giants played their best baseball of the season so far, throttling the Casa Grande Gauchos of Petaluma 3-1.

Coming off a roller-coaster week of wild ‘Mercy Rule’ shutouts, Saturday’s contest was a refreshing return to good, clean baseball on both sides. The only substandard aspect of the game was the lack of a professional umpiring crew, as their unexplained no-show forced coaches on both teams to the mound, calling the game for their respective batters.

In the top of the first, the Gauchos hit the ball hard, but Gavin Soper, roaming the grounds in center field, made two of his five putouts on the day, setting the tone for the Giants’ defense.

The game proceeded briskly, as both pitchers faced only one batter over the minimum through the first three innings, and Engstrom worked a wicked curveball for five strikeouts. With two outs in the first, left fielder Wyatt Turkington reached out to poke a curveball to left for a single, but was promptly caught stealing to retire the side.

The teams traded defensive gems in the third, as Paul – who started the game at second base – leaped for a spectacular backhand snag of Gaucho third baseman H. Gallagher’s soft line drive. In the bottom of the inning, Paul himself was robbed. Giants’ right fielder Drew Song singled to left, but was stranded when Gaucho center fielder M. Salazar-Dileo raced in for a diving catch of Paul’s sinking liner.

Paul also helped shut down a burgeoning Casa Grande threat in the top of the fourth. Following a walk to catcher J.T. Summers, Engstrom plunked Salazar-Dileo, putting runners on first and second.  Gaucho starting pitcher Jeffrey Rice then scorched a ball to second which Paul handled deftly on the fly, doubling up Salazar-Dileo at first with help from a nifty scoop by Giants’ first baseman Jordan Kimball.

In the bottom of the fifth, with Summers taking over from Rice on the mound, Redwood finally broke through at the plate. Giants shortstop Chas Veley got things going with a hit up the middle, advancing to second when the ball found its way through the legs of Rice, now in center field. Following a walk to Giants catcher Ryan Ip, Kimball advanced the runners with a slow-rolling grounder to short. Veley took a big turn at third base, drawing a wild throw from Gaucho first baseman A. Ferrando over Gallagher’s outstretched glove, and came in to break the scoreless deadlock, with Ip advancing to third on the play.

The Giants weren’t done yet. Song drew a walk, then raced to steal second. As the catcher gunned the ball down to the second baseman, Ip broke for home, just beating the throw to the plate with a beautiful slide. Song made it 3-0 when Gaucho catcher P. Liu dropped a swinging third strike to Paul, then threw wildly over Ferrando’s head.

Casa Grande responded in the top of the sixth. Reliever Paul plunked Gaucho right fielder N. Gonzalez-Dachev, then watched him steal second, advancing to third on a botched pickoff attempt. Gaucho second baseman Jack Hu followed by slapping a single into left field, scoring Gonzalez-Dachev, and breaking up Redwood’s no-hitter on the day.

It was to be Casa Grande’s only hit, as Veley took over on defense for the remainder of the game. With Lu on second, Summers hit the ball sharply into the hole. Veley came up with a beautiful backhand grab on the short hop, looking Lu back as he gunned down Summers at first.

Salazar-Dileo followed with a soft line drive to shallow left center. Veley raced back to his left, reaching up at the last second to gather the ball into his glove, retiring the side.

Following a three up-three down bottom of the sixth for Redwood, Casa Grande was down to their last at-bat. With one out, Veley robbed the Gauchos of yet another hit, ranging deep in the hole, setting his feet, and just nabbing the runner at first with an outstanding throw. Veley also assisted on the final out, charging in on a dribbler and firing across the diamond to end the game.

Hitting on the day was sparse on both sides, with Redwood recording only three hits to the Gauchos’ one, and striking out twelve times in six innings, a far cry from their 20-0 laugher just the day before.  Now at 3-3 on the year, the Giants commence MCAL play on Tuesday at 3:30pm versus the San Marin Mustangs at Moody Field, before traveling Friday afternoon to Novato to return the visit.

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