5/19: Redwood had a chance to defend their outright MCAL title by sweeping the playoffs. When #6 seed Justin-Siena beat San Marin, statisticians pencilled the Giants into the Championship Game on Saturday night. But the old saying “Anyone can beat anyone on any given day.” came to life as the Braves upset the Giants in a hard-fought game under the lights at Albert Park.
Redwood started their ace, Zack Kopstein, who shut out Justin in their last match-up, pitching a complete-game shut-out and had a perfect game with only seven outs left in the game. The Braves came out swinging, and dropped three runs onto the board, highlighted by a bomb off of the base of the center-field wall by Cameron Michael.
Nicolas Belgum led off the bottom of the first with a walk, and later stole third. Erik Doctor walked but both runners would be left stranded on base. Justin again added three runs in the top of the second, plating all of their runs with two outs.
Justin piled on in the top of the third, scoring on an error, putting the Giants down 7-0 going into the top of the fourth. The Giants answered with a run when Dane Goodman led off the inning by hitting a hard grounder to third and crossed the bag safely as the throw sailed over the first baseman’s head and advanced to second on the errant throw. Goodman advanced to third on a wild pitch and slid in safely at home after another wild pitch, putting the Giants down 7-1 going into the top of the fourth.
Kopstein shut down the Braves in the top of the frame, and Trevor Foehr doubled in the bottom of the inning but the Giants didn’t deliver and went into the fifth inning still down 7-1. Justin scored again in the top of the fifth, taking their lead to 8-1 and leaving the Giants with nine outs needing seven runs to tie and eight runs to take the lead.
Henry Zeilser took a fastball in the back, setting the table in the bottom of the fifth, but that would be the only baserunner for the Giants in the inning. Josh Cohen came in to close out the game for Redwood and the sophomore struck out the first batter he faced, Catcher Trevor Foehr erased a Justin single, gunning the runner down on an attempted steal. Prompting cat calls from the Giants fans as Justin broke an unwritten baseball rule “Don’t run when you are up by more than six runs”.
Redwood made the game interesting in the bottom of the sixth and kept the crowd glued to their seats. Kopstein led off the inning with a single. After a fly out to center, Foehr was hit by a pitch. Ashton Finegold dropped a perfect drag bunt, loading the bases with one out. Nicolas Belgum (AKA ‘Nickie Clutch”) singled to left, scoring Kopstein and Foehr. After a pop-out, Henry Zeisler walked and was lifted for the speedy Genki LeClair. Erik Doctor singled, scoring two more, putting the Giants within striking distance, 8-5. LeClair crossed the plate on a wild pitch, and the inning ended on a drive to center. Justin 8, Redwood 6.
Cohen held the Braves scoreless in the top of the seventh and the crowd noise swelled as the Giants came to bat needing two runs with just three outs left. Nic Gillies took a one-out walk, and after a ground out, Aubrey Sine came in to pitch-hit. Sine battled and took a walk, putting the tying run at first and the winning run at the plate. A hard ground ball to short and a close play at first ended the Giants threat and their hopes to defend their outright title.
“They (Justin-Siena) came out and played like they had nothing to lose and put us in a hole we couldn’t dig out of. I’m proud of our boys, they didn’t lay down after we were down. They fought to the end and we had a chance. If we had a few more innings…”, Firenzi said after the game.
The Giants take their 16-2 league record and 19-6 season record to the NCS Seeding Committee with hopes for a high seed and the chance to host their NCS games at Moody Field. Firenzi will need to wait until the NCS tournament to reach that (what now seems to be) elusive 400th win.