The Redwood JV Baseball Giants’ 2022 season ended on a muted note, as the Giants fell, 7-3, to a much-improved Tam High squad. Having “mercied” the same group of Red-tailed Hawks three days prior, Redwood came into the game with high expectations.
The sun was shining, the winds were calm, the crowd was large – and an umpire even showed up five minutes before the game. All the elements seemed to be in place for a thrilling contest.
In a surprise move, erstwhile outfielder Gavin Soper took the mound for the Giants. Soper began dealing heat right away, striking out the side in the bottom of the first..
Redwood drew first blood in the top of the second. Giants’ first baseman Jordan Kimball dropped a single into right field, then promptly stole second. Left fielder Wyatt Turkington then ripped a double through the right-center field gap, scoring Kimball. A wild pitch and two walks then loaded the bases for Superman DH Tony Metaxas, who had torn up the Hawks at the plate three days before.
Hawks’ starter Henry Simpson, having watched that performance, brought his kryptonite to the party, in the form of a curveball which Metaxas watched spinning by to retire the side, with the Giants up 1-0.
Soper’s second inning didn’t go quite as smoothly as the first, as four walks, a pair of singles and a wild pitch resulted in two runs for the Hawks. One bright spot: with runners at first and third, Hawks second baseman Cooper Kift broke for second base, but was gunned down by Giants’ catcher Ryan Ip, with a throw so good that it held the runner at third.
All of this resulted in quite a workload for Soper, who by the end of two innings had already thrown 69 pitches. Nevertheless, with Hawks’ shortstop Hugo Barbieri’s bases-loaded popup to Kimball, the Giants were out of the inning down only 2-1.
Soper helped himself right away in the top of the third, leading off with a blast over the head of Hawks’ right fielder Holden Bougie. Soper thought about three, with a big turn around second base, but settled for a long double. Giants’ second baseman Max Paul sent a scorching grounder over the bag at first, which was somehow handled by Bonneau for one out. Soper took third, then came racing in to score on a wild pitch, tying the game 2-2. Soper had time to waltz in standing up, but elected to go for the hyper-aggressive head-first slide, which was definitely a crowd-pleaser, even on the Tam field artificial turf.
After a walk to Giants’ shortstop Sam Sumski, Kimball watched two of those kryptonite curveballs go by, then lifted the third one to shallow right center. Hawks’ center fielder Gavan Smeltzer looked like he had no chance at the ball, but raced in, and with a full dive, got his glove under the ball as it landed, robbing Kimball of a hit, and sucking away the Giants’ momentum. The pesky Smeltzer continued to vex the Giants throughout the game, including on the very next play, chasing down Giants’ right fielder Harrison Lapic’s deep drive to center, to retire the side.
The bottom of the third was the end of the line for the Soper pitching experiment. With Bonneau leading off, Soper bounced a pitch so far in front of the plate that it bounced up and clocked the umpire in the ear, triggering a five-minute timeout for first aid to be applied.
Soper’s final pitch to Bonneau was a wild ball four. As Ip chased the ball to the backstop, Bonneau unexpectedly rounded first and raced towards second base. The umpire hadn’t called time out, and the ball was live. Ip fired down to second, but no one was covering, as the middle infield seemed uncertain that such an advance was even legal. Alas, it was, and so Bonneau helped himself to third base while he was at it.
With this bit of Keystone Kops behind them, and the score still tied, the Giants hoped to turn the page. They brought Paul in to pitch, swapping Soper to second base (another position he had not played all year).
Paul got Hawks’ catcher Ben Miller to line out to center fielder Jack Corvi, but Corvi’s throw wasn’t in time to catch Bonneau, who was tagging at third. Several fans remarked that Bonneau had left the base prior to the catch, but the ump hadn’t seen that, so when Ip carried the ball to third, his protest was denied, and the run counted, putting the Hawks ahead 3-2.
A hit, a hit batsman and a wild pitch put runners on second and third with one out, bringing Hawks’ backup right fielder CJ Ceral to the plate. Ceral hit a line drive which found its way under the glove of Soper, scoring both runners and bringing the score to 5-2.
But the Hawks weren’t done yet. The pesky Smeltzer grounded into what could have been a 6-4-3 double play, but beat out the throw to first, taking second on a wild pitch, and then third on a wild pickoff attempt. With two outs, Hawks’ left fielder PJ Ceral (brother of right fielder CJ) topped a grounder over third base to close out the scoring for the inning at 6-2.
The Giants tried to formulate a rally in the bottom of the fifth, but the bounces just didn’t go their way. Soper led off with a blast nearly to the fence in right field, but CJ Ceral was playing him just right, and put it away for out number one.
Paul followed by tomahawking a high fastball up the middle for a single, followed by Sumski’s own hard-hit ball – a single to right field. And when Kimball poked a soft liner just out of Kift’s reach into right field, the Giants found themselves with the bases loaded and only one out. But the rally was not to be; for some reason, at that moment, the baseball gods turned their backs on Redwood.
Lapic’s soft liner curved towards Barberie’s shoetops, where he bent down and plucked the ball on the fly for out number two, bringing Turkington to the plate. Turkington, who had been hitting the ball well all game, smoked a line drive up the middle, raising the hopes of the Redwood contingent – hopes that were just as quickly dashed by the long arm of Barberie, reaching out behind second base to snatch the ball out of the air, and quash the Giants’ rally.
The Hawks tacked on a run in the bottom of the sixth, as 6’6” Reed Hanna, now in at first base, blasted a ball nearly over the fence in left center, scoring Hawks’ DH Jack Scalisi to make it 7-2. In retrospect, the Giants had saved another run on Scalisi’s grounder to Lapic, who caught the ever-pesky Smeltzer off the bag at third, and initiated a lengthy rundown involving four throws, until Ip finally applied the tag. For those of you scoring, the play went 5-2-6-2-5-2 (which is also Smeltzer’s locker combination).
Down five runs, the Giants made a last-gasp effort in the top of the seventh. With Hawks’ reliever Henry Stoll on the hill, Soper led off with a single to left field, followed by a walk to Paul. Sumski’s soft liner was handled by Kift, though, and when Kimball struck out in front of a slow curveball, the Giants were down to their last out.
A collective groan erupted when Lapic swung and missed at another curveball for strike three, but the groans became shouts when the ball skipped by Miller, and Lapic hustled to first base. The Giants were alive, and the bases were loaded! A subsequent walk to Turkington made the score 7-3.
Stoll, now facing the tying run in Corvi at the top of the order, dished up a fastball that Corvi smashed to third base. But alas, Hawks’ third baseman Ryder Covey was there in front of it. Covey went to a knee to smother the ball, then picked it up, took two steps to the base for the force, and just like that, Redwood’s season was over.
The Giants closed out the year at 14-9 (8-4 MCAL). Max Paul led the team with a .407 batting average for the year, followed by Jack Corvi at .362, Sam Sumski at .339, Jordan Kimball at .333, and Quinn Miller at .321. Of course, no discussion of batting average can ignore Quinn Newlin – off the charts at 1.000.
Paul and Lapic shared the team lead in RBIs with 14 apiece, followed by Chas Veley with 12.
In terms of pitching, Paul led the team in strikeouts with 35, followed by Veley with 28, and Cole Engstrom with 27.
The Redwood JV Baseball Giants journalistic staff wishes all players, families and coaches a beautiful, Covid-free summer, and looks forward to the resumption of play in 2023.