5/17/23:  The Redwood Varsity Baseball Giants nearly gave away the farm on Wednesday to the Livermore Cowboys (Pokes), but decided to extend their season with a ferocious rally, emerging victorious 6-3, and advancing in the North Coast Sectional playoffs.
After posting a 5-5 record over their last 10 regular season games, then bowing out of the MCAL playoffs on a heartbreaking 7th inning San Marin home run, the Giants were due for some magic.
After the top of the 3rd though, it looked like they might be waiting until next year. Senior southpaw Rory Minty, locked in a scoreless tie with Cowpoke CJ Johnston, started the inning by deflecting Pokes DH AJ Cook’s grounder towards second base, where Giant Theo Trono raced in for a perfect off-balance throw to get out #1. Energized, Minty fanned Pokes shortstop CJ Johnston for the second out.  But then the wheels fell off.
Although Pokes shortstop Bobby Alvear slapped a single through Minty’s legs, the damage seemed contained when Pokes third baseman Ray Castillo hit a routine grounder to his counterpart Rex Solle.   Solle’s throw, however, was in the dirt, and eluded Giants first baseman Ben Resnick’s attempted scoop. With two outs and Alvear running, there were now Pokes on first and third.
Right fielder Andrew Arante followed with a grounder in the hole. Giants shortstop Danil Wells gloved it with a tremendous dive, then, desperate for the third out, rushed a throw to second, hurling the ball into right field.  Alvear had already scored, and now there were runners on second and third.
Next up, Pokes first baseman Dom Shepard generated a cruel replay, sending another grounder into the hole, which Wells corralled with another tremendous backhanded dive. Without a force option, Wells elected to go to third, but again threw the ball away, scoring both runners, and running the score to 3-0 (all runs unearned).
Redwood fans sat stunned. If Wells, a rock-solid Golden Glover throughout the year, was cratering, then the team and season were certainly lost, weren’t they? Fortunately, Minty fanned Pokes center fielder Justin Matchett, giving the Giants a chance to get off the field and think about it.
By the bottom of the 5th, the Giants had decided to fight back.
Designated hitter Matthew Knauer led off with a hot grounder off of Castillo’s chest. Quinn Miller came in to run for Knauer, moving to second on a single to left by left fielder Sam Gersch. A walk to Trono then loaded the bases for… Wells.
Jumping at the chance to make amends, Wells looped a sinking line drive into the gap in left center. Matchett dove, but watched it bounce past him, scoring Miller and Gersch sending Trono to third. Wells stood, elated, on second, beating his chest in exultation, as a weight seemed lifted from the collective shoulders of the team. The score was 3-2.
The Cowboys elected to intentionally walk Solle to load the bases again, this time for cleanup hitter and catcher Rory Coughlan. Coughlan surprised the Pokes with a beautiful squeeze bunt, scoring Trono to tie the game, and keeping the bases loaded.  First baseman Shepard was caught so off-guard by the bunt that he didn’t even make it back to the base to take Johnston’s throw.
With Minty up, a shaky Johnston let loose a wild pitch to score Solle, giving Redwood the lead for the first time, 4-3. Not satisfied, Minty lined a single up the middle to score Wells, then right fielder Jack Moseley clubbed a single to left to score Coughlan. Livermore pulled Johnston, but the damage was done. The Giants had pulled ahead 6-3, never to look back.
The Pokes didn’t threaten again. In the top of the 6th, left fielder Hayden Druba did push a grounder past a diving Resnick, but Minty got Cook swinging on a changeup, then handled Johnston’s sharp comebacker to retire the side. After his hard luck earlier in the game, it was especially satisfying for Minty to flick his glove down reflexively, and for Johnston’s ball to snap straight into the pocket. It made a beautiful sound, and must have felt like justice.
The bottom of the 7th completed Wells’s resurrection, as he opened the inning handling two tricky grounders with his typical flair. And for balance, offsetting the error which had started it all, Solle took a grounder near the base, firing all the way across the diamond to end the game.
With the win, the 5th-seeded Giants (now 18-8) move on in the NCS playoffs, traveling up to Ukiah on Saturday to face the 4th-seeded Wildcats, who beat Vintage of Napa 3-0. At 16-6 on the season, the Wildcats tied with Windsor for a distant second in the North Bay – Oak league, behind Cardinal Newman, who at 24-1 is the consensus top team in all of Northern California this year. In terms of common opponents during the year, the Giant and Wildcats both played and beat Analy, Montgomery, and Rancho Cotate.

Comments are closed.