Redwood overcomes wind, cold, to top San Marin 8-1 in Novato

The March weather came in like a lion, but it was the San Marin Mustangs who went out like lambs, falling to the Redwood JV Baseball Giants by a score of 8-1, and spoiling one of the first-ever games at their brand-new stadium in Novato.

With winds at the recently-constructed Mark Whitburn Field gusting as high as 50 mph, and temperatures falling as low as 46°F, Redwood fashioned a groundhog-day repeat of Tuesday’s home performance against the Mustangs. Like Tuesday, the Giants were no-hit by starting pitching, but erupted against Mustang relief in the sixth inning to leap ahead 6-1. On the road today, the Giants took the extra step of adding two runs in the seventh, bringing the final score to 8-1.

Starting pitcher Chas Veley worked six strong innings, scattering five hits and five walks, and repeatedly got himself out of jams with key strikeouts and clutch fielding plays. Veley fanned six on the day.

Redwood struck first to start the game. Giants’ new center fielder Jack Corvi (fresh off the Redwood Boys Soccer MCAL and NorCal-championship campaign) landed in the leadoff spot, and was immediately grazed by Mustang pitcher Jack Osberg on the first pitch. Osberg, battling the gusting wind, then uncorked two wild pitches to third baseman Quinn Miller, (another recent arrival – off the injury list), allowing Corvi to advance to second and then third. Miller grounded back to Osberg, who looked Corvi back and tossed to first, bringing left fielder Harrison Lapic to the plate with one out.

Lapic lofted a ball into right field, where the wind and sun combined to baffle the Mustang right fielder, who dropped the ball, scoring Corvi to put Redwood on the board, 1-0.

The Giants caught a break in the bottom of the first, as Veley returned the favor of hitting San Marin’s leadoff hitter, center fielder Joe Alessandria. The speedy Alessandria then took second on a hit-and-run grounder to Giants’ second baseman Max Paul.  When Osberg’s single to right was booted by a charging Gavin Soper, Alessandria was inexplicably held at third, depriving the Mustangs of a certain run. A walk to Mustang first baseman Teddy Krajeski then loaded the bases with just one out.

Veley responded by striking out the Mustang catcher on a wicked curveball, then getting shortstop Lars Rau on a liner to Paul at second to retire the side.

Giant bats then fell silent, seemingly hibernating from the cold, as the Mustangs stayed awake to threaten inning after inning. In the bottom of the second, a single by third baseman Gino Ravina and a walk to Alessandria put runners on first and second with two outs. Mustang second baseman Jack Goodwin singled up the middle, setting up a play at the plate. Corvi’s strong throw to Giants’ catcher Ryan Ip arrived slightly to the first base side, and Ravina slid in just under Ip’s diving tag, knotting the score at 1-1.

In the bottom of the third, with runners at first and second and one out, Veley came off the mound to field a dribbler from Rau, setting his feet and wheeling to third to catch the lead runner for the second out. After a walk loaded the bases, Veley gloved another comebacker from left fielder Maddox Fortune, tossing over to Giant first baseman Jordan Kimball to retire the side.

The bottom of the fourth was a near replay of the third. With runners on first and third and one out, pinch hitter Jake Simpson slapped a ball back to Veley, who turned and ran at the lead runner off of third, picking him off for out number two. Veley then went on to glove yet another comebacker, tossing to Kimball for out number three.

With Simpson staying in the game to pitch, the Giants went quietly in the top of the fifth, though Kimball did leg out a soft grounder to third, just beating Ravina’s throw, and breaking up the Mustangs’ no-hitter on the day. 

With the Mustang pitching spell broken, Redwood’s luck took a sharp turn for the better in the top of the sixth. The speedy Corvi led things off with a grounder to the right side, drawing Krajeski off the bag and forcing a wild throw to Simpson, who was scrambling to cover. Corvi took second easily on the play. Miller followed with a grounder to Ravina, whose strong throw to first flew past  Krajeski, who, blinded by the sun, bent over and covered his head with his arms instead of fielding the ball. Corvi now stood on third and Miller on second with no outs, bringing Lapic to the plate.

Lapic slapped a single up the middle under the glove of a diving Jensen, scoring Corvi to break the tie, and sending Miller racing around third. As Alessandria’s throw was on its way home, Miller lost his balance, staggering into an outstretched dive a full two feet short of the plate. Fortunately for the Giants, Jensen bobbled the throw at home, just missing the tag on Miller, who crawled across the plate to make the score 3-1. 

With Lapic at first and still no outs, Veley smashed a topspin liner to short, which Jensen handled on the high hop and threw to Goodwin, forcing Lapic at second. Lapic, though, broke up the double play, forcing Goodwin to throw wildly to first, which allowed Veley to take second base.  Soper followed with a line drive to right, making it first and third with just one out, and bringing Paul to the plate.

Paul lofted a ball high above right field, where it caught the wind and carried over the head of Hubbs and to the wall for a triple, scoring Veley and Soper, and making it 5-1. Giants’ shortstop Sam Sumski then walked and stole second, before a bewildered Kimball struck out looking at a pitch six inches or more off the plate. Up next, Ip assumed his stance with his toes nearly touching the plate, in hopes of being able to reach this new outside zone.

Dancing off of third, Paul started to break for home on a wild pitch, but stopped when Jensen quickly recovered the ball and fired to Ravina at third, catching Paul in no-man’s land. As luck would have it though, as Paul broke for home a second time, Ravina botched his throw back to Jensen – the fourth Mustang error in the inning – scoring Paul to make it 6-1.

Veley, taking the mound in the bottom of the sixth with a pitch count of 84, had another strong inning. One highlight was a curveball which bore down on the batter, causing him to hit the deck, before breaking sharply across the plate for a strike.  The Mustang hitter picked himself up and slapped a grounder deep in the hole, just beating out Sumski’s throw for an infield single.

After Goodwin stole second, Miller made a diving stop on a Simpson grounder to his left, hopping up and feinting towards first, successfully luring the aggressive Goodwin into breaking for third. Well and truly trapped, Goodwin didn’t go quietly, juking up and down the base path as if a backyard game of tag had broken out, until Miller finally chased him down for out number three.

The Giants tacked on two more runs in the top of the seventh, as Miller drew yet another throwing error from Ravina, taking second on the play, and scoring on Veley’s sharp single to right, with Veley advancing to second on the throw home. Soper followed with a walk, putting runners on first and second with two out, and bringing Paul to the plate.

Paul lofted yet another ball into right towards Hubbs, who battled with the wind before diving and ultimately dropping the ball. It was the Mustangs’ seventh error on the day, scoring Veley to make it 8-1.  Hubbs achieved a small measure of redemption by racing over to corral Sumski’s well-hit drive to right center for Redwood’s final out of the day.

As the Mustangs came up to bat in the bottom of the seventh, with the score 8-1 and temperatures down to the upper forties, the shivering crowd hoped for a quick resolution. However, as Veley took the mound, a series of conferences between the umpire and coaches delayed play for a good ten minutes, ending in a San Marin protest – namely, that Veley had exceeded MCAL’s 90-pitch daily limitation for JV baseball.

The MCAL adheres to the national (NFHS), state (CIF) and Regional (NCS) rules on pitching limitation, which are identical at every level.  Daily pitch count limits depend on the number of days a pitcher has rested, with the maximum for JV and Freshman pitchers being 90, assuming they’ve had at least four days of rest (as Veley had). For comparison, three days prior, Cole Engstrom threw 92 pitches in his complete game shutout of the Mustangs, but he passed the limit on his final batter, which is within the rules.  Veley had continued to pitch to two more batters after reaching 90 pitches.

Despite the Giants’ 6-1 lead before Veley broached the 90-pitch limit, San Marin lodged a formal protest with the umpire, at which point Redwood brought in Max Paul to pitch, sending Veley to shortstop and Sumski to second.

Paul made short work of the Mustangs, allowing Krajeski to drop a single just inside the left field line, before striking out the side to end the game. 

The Giants, now 5-3 on the year (2-0 MCAL), hit the road again on Tuesday to play the Terra Linda Trojans in San Rafael, before hosting the Livermore JV Pokes at Endriss Field on Thursday.

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