Varsity ekes out first round NCS win

5/18: The Giants ended the season as the #7 seed in the NCS and as a result, they started the tournament with a home game and drew a favorable matchup vs.the Maria Carrillo Pumas out of Santa Rosa, who came in with an 11-14-1 record and ranked  #10. There wasn’t much offense in this game, but the Giants did just enough at the plate to a secure a 2-1 victory.

Rex Solle got the start for the Giants and he pitched well. He went five and a third, and gave up 1 run on 1 hit with 4 strikeouts and 2 walks. Kent Goodman came on in the 6th in relief and closed out the game. Goodman gave up 0 runs on 1 hit with 4 strikeouts and 1 walk.

Maria’s starting pitcher may be why they ranked #10 in the NCS as he looked good.

The top of the 5th was a microcosm of this game. The first Maria hitter hit a ball to short and the throw was off line, ricocheting off the 1st base line fence. The runner tried to make it to second, but was gunned down by Rory Minty by at least 5 feet. So now, instead of a man on 1st with no outs, they had bases empty with 1 out. The next batter walks. Solle tries to pick him off, but the throw to first is off line, again ricocheting off the first-base line fence. The runner makes it easily to second, but tries to make it to third. Luca Bove, who was backing up the play at 1st, throws a bullet to third and picks off the runner by 5-10 feet. Deja vu all over again, and visions of Little League.

Despite all this, Maria was only down 2-1 going into the 7th.

In the 7th, Maria’s first batter hit a single up the middle to put a man on first. The second batter hit a fly ball to shallow right. Luca Bova came sprinting in for it, but he tripped on something in the outfield. He hit the turf and almost made the catch on his knees, but couldn’t quite come up with it. It was just an unlucky break. Now, Maria had men on 1st and 2nd with no outs, and they replaced both runners with pinch-runners, so presumably they had fast guys on the base paths. In any case, things were getting interesting creating a perfect situation for a bunt.

Most baseball fans dislike the sacrifice bunt because they don’t like giving up the out, and they don’t like taking the bat of  their hitters’ hands. But here, a sac bunt made sense because having men on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out opens up many possibilities:

1. A basehit scores 2 to take the lead.

2. A sac fly scores 1 to tie.

3. A passed ball/wild pitch ties the game.

4. A squeeze is possible.

5. Presumably, Redwood would bring the infield in, and not concede the tying run, so getting a ball through the infield is a little easier.

6.A ground ball to any deep part of the infield scores the tying run.

7. A man on third puts more pressure on the pitcher.

And keep in mind that both base runners were inserted into the game to pinch run for a reason. The Carillo hitter waved the bat weakly a couple of times before striking out. Now, there was one out, and the sac bunt was no longer in order. The next batter popped out to shortstop for the second out. Goodman struck out the final batter to secure the victory.

The Giants are now 19-8 and will play again on Saturday in the second round of the NCS.

Varsity falls short in MCAL Championship

5/13: There was a big, enthusiastic crowd on hand at Albert Field for the MCAL Championship game. Redwood and MC had split the season series, so this figured to be a good matchup. In the end, MC prevailed on a walk-off HR in the 8th to win 3-2.

The bottom line in this game was that Giants couldn’t put together any clutch hits. Indeed, the Giants only had 2 hits total, to MC’s 7. It also didn’t help that Giants hitters struck out 10 times! Despite that, the Giants were up 2-1 going into the bottom on the 7th, but couldn’t hold on. MC got a run to tie the game, sending it into extras.

In the top of the 8th, Redwood went down without any hits. In the bottom of the 8th, Brad Burnes stepped up to the plate for MC and destroyed a ball over the left field wall. This was Burnes’ second dinger of the game and both of his blasts were big-boy home runs. Absolutely crushed. It was an impressive display, which unfortunately came at the Giants’ expense.

Rory Minty got the start for the Giants and he pitched well. He went six innings, giving up 2 runs on 6 hits, with 5 strikeouts and 1 walk. He certainly pitched well enough to win, but just didn’t get enough run support from the Giants’ offense. The only real notable AB for the Giants was Colin Cuneen, who put a charge into a ball that was hit to the warning track in left. The ball was smoked, but caught by the left fielder for a long out.

The Giants fell to 18-8 on the season. NCS play begins next week.

Varsity edges Tam in MCAL semis thriller

5/10: What a ballgame. The best Varsity game I’ve seen this season. The Giants beat Tam 6-5 to advance to the MCAL finals. Kent Goodman was the hero of the game – again. This is the third consecutive game where Goodman’s heroics sealed the victory. As you’ll recall, last Tuesday vs. Branson, the Giants entered the bottom of the 6th down 2-1. Goodman scorched a double down the left field line for 2 RBIs and a 3-2 lead. Last Thursday against Branson, Goodman threw a no-hitter. Today, Goodman blasted a 3-run homer to left to punctuate a 4-run first.

It felt like the Giants might run away with this one, but Tam once again proved that they are a tough ballclub. They scratched out a run in the third to make it 4-1. But the Giants answered. In the top of the 4th, Luca Bove hit a 2-run bomb to left to make it 6-1. Things were looking good for the Giants, but Tam rallied in the bottom of the 4th with 4 runs to make it 6-5. Neither team scored after the 4th, although there were many tense moments.

If the 3-run jack wasn’t enough, Goodman came in to pitch in the bottom of the 4th. He pitched three and two-thirds innings without giving up any hits and striking out 4. Wow. Seems like a case of the rich getting richer, but I’m philosophically inclined to admire and embrace greatness wherever it presents itself (sorry AOC). Goodman’s play over the past three games has been inspirational.

The Giants improved to 18-7 on the season and will take on MC for the MCAL championship. The game is on Friday at Albert Park at 7:00 pm.

Kent Goodman no-hits Branson

5/5: Kent Goodman had all of his pitches working on a nice afternoon at College of Marin versus Branson. On the strength of Goodman’s no-hitter, the Giants cruised to an 8-0 victory. Although Goodman’s pitching was the story of the game, Redwood’s offense was productive and efficient. The Giants tallied 11 hits. Cole McGowan had a big game with 3 hits, while Rex Solle went 2-3 with 2 RBIs.

Nick Gehrman came on in the seventh to pinch hit and blasted a single to left field. While this hit wasn’t terribly consequential to the outcome of the game, it raised Gehrman’s batting average to a lofty .500, while also pushing his on-base percentage to an eye-popping .714.

The Giants ended the MCAL regular season with a record of 17-7 overall, 12-4 in MCAL. The MCAL playoffs commence next week. The Giants (3 seed) will take on Tam (2 seed) at their place on Tuesday, May 10th at 4:30.

Fortune smiles on Varsity against Branson

5/3: After the debacle that was the 2-game sweep versus Tam, the MCAL schedule appeared favorable for the Giants. Drawing Branson at this point in the season was a blessing because the team needed to restore some of its confidence. Beating up on its small-school rival appeared to be just what they needed. Branson entered the game with a 4-10 MCAL record, and those 4 wins were against the San Rafael teams. The other MCAL teams had more or less pummeled them. And today was Senior Day (in theory).

Despite the mismatch, the Giants were fortunate to eke out a 3-2 win in this one. The starter for Branson, Wilson Wendt, gave one of the best pitching performances I’ve seen in the past two seasons. He had absolutely no velocity (fastball appeared to be in the 60’s), but he had nasty off-speed stuff with impeccable control (curve balls, cutters, change ups, all with movement). He pitched six innings and didn’t walk a single batter.  He kept the Redwood hitters off balance all game long, and for the most part, he limited them to weak contact.

There wasn’t much offense in this game. Branson scored both of its runs in the 4th on a walk and then a 2-run blast to left. The home run was off Rory Minty, but other than that, Minty pitched extremely well, tallying 7 strikeouts over 5 innings.

The Giants were down 2-1 going into the bottom of the 6th. They had a man on 1st with two outs and Cole McGowan hit a hard ground ball to the second baseman. The ball was hit right to him, and the second baseman got most of his glove on the ball, but he couldn’t make the play. This play was scored a “hit”, but I beg to differ. I was sitting down the first base line and I had a very good view of the play. Any average high school second baseman should make this play. At a minimum, he should’ve blocked the ball with his body (like we teach kids in Little League). I would have scored the play as an error. In any case, the inning should have been over, but the Giants took advantage of the miscue. Kent Goodman came in as a pinch-hitter and roped a double down the left field line. This ball was smoked and knocked in two runs to give Redwood the lead. On my scorecard, those two runs were unearned, but that doesn’t take anything away from Goodman’s clutch at-bat. Indeed, this was the second time this season (the other being the San Marin game) where Goodman came up huge, despite getting very few ABs this year.

The Giants are now 16-7 overall, 11-4 in MCAL. Game 2 of this series is on Thursday at COM. This will be the final MCAL regular season game.

Varsity routed and swept by Tam

4/29: It was a beautiful day at Moody Field in Larkspur. Perfect weather. Reminded me of why we live here. Sadly, the game against Tam was anything but idyllic. Tam put the hammer down for an 11-2 drubbing. They swept the season series and are 5-0 against us over the past two seasons.

The first 5 innings of this game were horrific. Redwood gave up seven runs on seven walks. You just can’t win ballgames when you can’t find the strike zone. At the end of 5, the score was 7-0. The Giants showed some fight in the last two innings, but it was too little, too late.

There weren’t too many positives in this game, although there were a few. First, Tyler Blair returned to the mound after a long layoff. Blair was the ace of the staff last season, so this season was highly anticipated. An injury postponed his return, but it was great to see him back. And the team is going to need him down the stretch. Luca Bove made some great plays in right, including a sliding catch in foul territory where he crashed into the fence. A truly remarkable play. Charlie Welch was the star on offense with three hits. Rory Minty also crushed a double off the right field wall. Finally, I was impressed by Colin Cuneen’s AB. He came off the bench to pinch-hit and scorched a ball to right center for a base hit. In the end, though, the Giants just weren’t consistent enough on either side of the ball.

This team has an abundance of talented ballplayers. It is time for this team to put it together for the stretch run.

The Giants are now 15-7, 10-4 in MCAL.

Varsity suffers heartbreaker in extras at Tam

4/26: After a week off, the Giants returned to MCAL play with a matchup against Tam in Mill Valley. This game was real horrorshow, and I don’t mean that in a grand, Alex DeLarge sort of way. The teams were tied 2-2 at the end of 7, but Tam took the game in the 8th on walk-off walk.

There wasn’t a whole lot of offense in this game. The Giants had 5 hits, while the Red Tailed Hawks had just 4. The biggest difference in the game was that Giant hitters struck out 7 times, while the Hawks only tallied 4 punch outs. In addition, Redwood pitching walked 8 batters, while Tam pitchers only gave up one free pass.

Rory Minty got the start on the mound and he pitched well for 6 innings. He gave up 2 runs (1 earned) on 3 hits, with 3 strikeouts and 3 walks.  Rex Solle came on in the 7th and he pitched a scoreless frame to keep the game tied at 2-2; however, he came back out in the 8th and couldn’t find the strike zone. He retired the first batter in the inning, but then walked 4 straight batters to force in the winning run. Inasmuch as Solle has been incredibly effective and dominant all season, I suspect that he will bounce back in heroic fashion since he is such an outstanding ballplayer. He just didn’t quite have it today, although I’m told by a fan who was behind the plate that the strike zone was very tight.

Without a doubt, this was team’s biggest loss of the season; however, the good news is that if the squad can rally and defeat Tam on Friday, they will reclaim first place. With that in mind, I think it’s fair to say that Friday’s game is a must-win, and given the stakes involved, I’m expecting a “John Kreese-no mercy-sweep the leg” type of intensity in that game. We’ll find out what this team is made of, and perhaps they will even learn what it takes to sell real estate.

The Giants now sit at 15-6 overall, 10-3 in MCAL. Friday’s game is at Moody.

Varsity sweeps Archie

4/14: Under drizzly skies at Archie Williams, the Giants took advantage of Falcon miscues and poor pitching to win 6-1. Redwood only tallied 5 hits, but they took advantage of an Archie meltdown in the fourth to score 4 runs. Charlie Welch started the inning with a single, Luca Bove walked, Rory Minty singled, Tyler Blair walked, Nick Gehrman was hit by a pitch, and Merritt Brinckerhoff bunted and reached on an error. When the dust settled, Redwood was up 4-0. The Giants tacked on two more runs in the fifth to take a 6-0 lead. Archie threatened in the fifth, but was only able to put one run across on a home run over the “short porch” in left.

Kent Goodman got the start and he pitched five and two-thirds solid. He gave up one run on 3 hits, with 2 walks and 2 strikeouts. Jerry Omara came on in relief in the sixth and closed the game out. Omara recorded 2 strikeouts over an inning and a third, and didn’t give up any hits or walks.

The Giants now stand at 15-5 overall, 10-2 in MCAL. The ballclub has next week off.

Varsity edges Archie

4/12: Varsity returned to MCAL play with a matchup against Archie Williams at Moody Field. Not much offense in this game, but the Giants did just enough to win, 2-1.

The Giants started fast, scoring 2 runs in the bottom of the first. Merritt Brinckerhoff started the inning off with a single; Cole McGowan walked, and then Charlie Welch singled to drive in the first run. McGowan later scored on a wild pitch for the 2nd run. Redwood didn’t score the rest of the game, but the 2 runs in the first were all they needed.

Rory Minty started on the hill for the Giants. He pitched five solid, giving up one run on 6 hits, 2 walks, and 5 strikeouts. He started the sixth, giving up a single, so Redwood brought in Rex Solle in relief. Solle proceeded to mow down the next three hitters, striking out the side. Solle came back out in the seventh and gave up a single and a HBP, but he got out of the inning by striking out two hitters, and inducing a ground ball for the final out.

The Giants are now 14-5 overall, 9-2 in MCAL. These two teams will meet again on Thursday afternoon at Archie.

Varsity falls to Foothill

4/9: After two convincing victories on Thursday and Friday, Varsity made it to Saturday’s championship game of the James Logan tournament in Pleasanton. They faced Foothill in a game that everyone knew would be tough. Foothill came into the game as a highly-ranked Bay Area team with a 14-1 record. In addition, the game was as at Foothill’s field, giving them home-field advantage. The game was tight (2-2) going into the bottom of the fifth, but Foothill exploded for 4 runs in the fifth and cruised to a 6-2 victory.

Jerry Omara got the start on the mound for the Giants. He pitched fairly well for 4 innings, only giving up 2 runs, but he appeared to run out of gas in the fifth when he walked 3 batters and gave up a single. He left the game with Giants trailing 3-2, but the bases were loaded with no outs. Nick Gehrman came on in relief and tried to limit the damage, but a weakly-hit bloop single by the first batter he faced knocked in 2 runs, running the score up to 5-2. Gehrman was able to pitch out of the inning, but not before Foothill put another run on the board, leaving the score 6-2 going into the sixth. Neither team scored the rest of the way.

On offense, the Giants only mustered 5 hits. Charlie Welch, Luca Bove, Matty Jessen, Rex Solle, and Nick Gehrman each had a hit for the Giants. The Giants’ two runs were driven in by Luca Bove (single) and Jerry Omara (sac fly).

On a sad note, Merritt Brinckerhoff injured his toe in the Santa Rosa game and was not able to play today. The date of his return is unknown.

The Giants are now 13-5, 8-2 in MCAL. The Giants return to MCAL play next week with a 2-game series against Archie.

Varsity takes care of Santa Rosa

4/8: Santa Rosa came into this game with a 3-10 record, so no one expected this game to be close. The Giants prevailed 6-2, but the difference in the game was that Redwood came through with some clutch hitting and pitching when it mattered. SR, on the other hand, didn’t get much done in the key moments of the game.

Kent Goodman got the start on the mound for the Giants. He looked sharp; his fastball was live and he was locating his sharp-breaking curveball for strikes. Over four and a third shutout innings, Goodman only gave up 4 hits, while punching out 6. Goodman found a little trouble in the 5th. He gave up a walk and a single and SR had runners on 1st and 3rd with one out. Rex Solle came on in relief and this was where the game went south for SR. At this point, the Giants were up 3-0. Inexplicably, and reminiscent of a Little League play, the SR runner at 1st went halfway down to second in an attempt to get into a run down, so that the runner from 3rd could score. Remember this play from Little League? The problem, which seemed lost on the SR coaching staff, is that while this play often works in Little League, it doesn’t work against a good high school team. And even if it did, it wasn’t an appropriate call given the score and the point in the game. In any case, Redwood had this guy in a rundown and then then the runner from 3rd broke for home. Rory Minty calmly threw a strike to home plate and cut the runner down by a good 15 feet. It was an ugly play to put it mildly.  I can only hope that no young children were exposed to it.

After this debacle on the base paths, the life was sucked out of SR and they really had no chance. They did, however, show a little life in the 7th. Going into the bottom of the 7th, the Giants were up 6-0 and Johnny Bayler came in to pitch. Bayler quickly found himself in a jam, giving up 2 runs on 2 hits and 2 walks. The Giants’ manager went to the pen and brought in (rarely used as a pitcher) Cole McGowan. McGowan came in throwing good old-fashioned heat, but walked the first batter to load the bases with no one out. Needless to say, this was a golden opportunity for SR who was down 6-2 at this point. McGowan faced the pressure situation with his best stuff, striking out the next 3 batters to secure the victory.

On offense, the Giants only tallied 6 hits, but 2 of those hits were long balls. Matty Jessen crushed his 2nd homerun of the year – a deep shot to left, while Cole McGowan hit a long drive over the wall in right, his first homerun of the season. McGowan also notched a single and drove in 2 runs. Nick Gehrman, Charlie Welch, and Tyler Blair also had hits for the Giants. Speaking of Blair, it was great to see him back in the lineup after many months on the IR. In addition to a basehit, Blair also knocked in a run.

After the victory, the Giants are 13-4, 8-2 in MCAL. Tomorrow’s game figures to be much tougher as the Giants take on 14-1 Foothill.

Varsity dominates James Logan

4/7: Varsity had a few days off over Spring Break to collect themselves after the disaster that was the last Novato game. Everyone hoped that the team would bounce back from that tough loss. The Giants ventured out to Cowboy country (Livermore High) to participate in the James Logan tournament. The first team they drew was James Logan, who came in with a 4-7 record. JL appeared to be a below average ballclub, so Redwood figured to have an opportunity to win this one easily without much fuss. The Giants did indeed take care of business, winning 5-0.

Rory Minty got the start on the mound and he pitched very well. Over six shutout innings, he only gave up 4 hits and 2 walks, with 1 HBP. Johnny Bayler came on in the seventh in relief and closed things out, completing the shutout.

The Giants tallied 10 hits. Top performers were Charlie Welch and Matty Jessen, both with 2 hits.

With the win, the Giants now stand at 12-4 overall, 8-2 in MCAL.

Varsity suffers stunning defeat at Novato

4/1: It figured to be a great day of baseball. The Giants traveled to the outer reaches of Marin County suburbia, where it was a beautiful, sunny day with two solid teams facing off. Based on Tuesday’s game, Novato showed that they are a quality team. I figured the Giants would have to play good baseball, particularly since they were facing the best pitcher on Novato’s staff. In a stunning turn of events, the Giants took a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth, but ended up losing 5-4.

The game started with Merritt Brinckerhoff laying down a bunt for a base hit. Then, he was able to come all the way around to score, courtesy of two errors by the Novato shortstop. In the third, Brinckerhoff singled again and he scored when Charlie Welch grounded to third on a fielder’s choice. In the fourth, Matty Jessen crushed a home run to left for the Giants first long ball of the season. The score was 3-0 at this point. In the fourth, Cole McGowan drew a walk, then stole two bases. He later scored on an error by the Novato third baseman. The score was 4-0 after five and a half innings.

Kent Goodman started on the mound for the Giants and he pitched very well. Over four and a third shutout innings, he only gave up 2 hits and 2 walks, while punching out 5. In the fifth, Goodman found a little trouble when he walked the first batter and then gave up a single. Jerry Omara came on in relief and got the final 2 outs of the inning without giving up any runs. In the bottom of the sixth; however, the wheels came flying off the tricycle. Omara walked the first 2 batters and then gave up a bomb to the Novato shortstop, making the score 4-3. Omara walked the next batter, and then Nick Gehrman came on in relief. The first batter he faced laid down a sac bunt to move the runner to second. Gehrman fanned the next batter for the second out. The next batter hit a blooper just out of the reach of the second baseman to drive in the tying run. The next batter popped out to end the inning, but the game was now tied at 4-4.

The Giants went down in order in the top of the seventh. In the bottom half, Gehrman came back in to pitch and retired the first batter on a ground out. Rex Solle then came on in relief. Solle walked the first batter he faced, but then struck out the second batter for the second out. Solle also walked the next batter intentionally to put runners at first and second. The runners moved to second and third on a wild pitch. The final batter hit a slow chopper to third – a tough play that wasn’t made, allowing the runner from third to score and complete the walk-off.

Each team only managed 4 hits, but the biggest difference in the game was that Novato pitchers only issued 2 walks, while Redwood pitchers issued 7. In fact, four of the five runners who scored for Novato got on base as a result of a walk.

This loss will probably sting for awhile and the team will have some time to think about it. The team’s next game is April 7th in Livermore. The Giants now stand at 11-4 overall, 8-2 in MCAL

Varsity edges Novato

3/29: It was a fine day for baseball at Moody Field in Larkspur. The Novato Hornets were in town for the first game of a 2-game set. Novato entered the game with a 9-3 record overall, and 5-1 in MCAL, so they are a legit ballclub.  I figured that the Giants would need at least their B+ game to secure the victory, but as it happened, it was more of a B- game, but still good enough to win.

The Giants got off to a quick start, tagging the Novato starter for 4 quick runs in the bottom of the 1st. But Novato would come back and had the game tight at 5-4 in the top of the fifth. In the end, the Giants escaped with an 8-6 decision. Matty Jessen had a big day at the plate for the Giants, going 2-4 with 3 RBIs. Rex Solle also contributed 2 hits and 2 RBIs.

Rory Minty got the start on the mound for the Giants and his pitching line was decent: four and a third innings, giving up 4 runs (2 earned) on 3 hits, with 5 strikeouts and no walks. However, Minty lost his usual impeccable control in the third when he hit two successive batters and then gave up a single. The bases were loaded with two out and Minty should’ve gotten out of the inning unscathed, but the Giants committed an error in the infield, allowing two runs to score. Both of these runs were unearned.

In the fifth, Minty hit another batter and gave up a double, allowing another Novato run, so Jerry Omara came on in relief. Omara got out of the inning, but not before another run scored. Omara came back out in the sixth, but he couldn’t find the strike zone, walking the first two batters, so the Giants’ skipper brought in Rex Solle. Solle had some difficulty settling in, walking the first three batters he faced, allowing two more Novato runs to score. But Solle was able to right the ship, striking out the last five batters he faced, securing the victory.

The Giants now stand at 11-3 overall, 8-1 in MCAL. The ballclub will travel to Novato on Friday afternoon to complete the series.

Varsity rights the ship, blows out MC

3/25: Without a doubt, this was the biggest game of the season so far. After losing to MC on Tuesday, it was important for the ballclub to make a good showing today – which they did. In front of the biggest crowd of the season at Moody, the team looked much better and was able to dominate the game, securing a 9-1 win.

The Giants drew a better pitching matchup in today’s game, so it was a good opportunity to get the bats going. The team responded with seven hits. Merritt Brinckerhoff, Rory Minty, Charlie Welch, Cole McGowan, Jerry Omara, Danil Wells, and Rory Coughlan all had hits for the Giants.

Kent Goodman got the start on the mound for the Giants. He pitched three and two-thirds innings, giving up 1 run on 4 hits, with 2 strikeouts, and 4 walks. Goodman got into a bit of jam in the fourth. MC put two men on with 2 outs. Jerry Omara came in to finish the inning, striking out the batter to end the threat. Omara also pitched a scoreless fifth. Rex Solle came on in the sixth, and pitched 2 scoreless innings, striking out 3 to end the game and re-establish some order in the MCAL baseball universe.

With the victory, the Giants are now 10-3 overall, 7-1 in MCAL.