5/21/23: The Redwood Varsity Baseball Giants traveled north on Saturday to Anton Stadium in Ukiah (Mendocino County), where they scored early and often, jumping out to an 8-0 lead over the Ukiah Wildcats after 5 ½ innings. Giants starter Rex Solle was dominant over his 6 2/3 innings, fanning 13 with just two walks, while scattering four hits.
Giants second baseman Theo Trono led off the game with a seeing-eye grounder in the hole, coming around to score on a blast by Solle off of the left-field fence. Wildcat left fielder Hunter Schnitzius crashed into the fence going for the ball, enabling Solle to waltz into third with a triple.
Giants catcher Rory Coughlan followed with his second beautiful squeeze bunt in two games, scoring Solle to put the Giants in front 2-0.
The Giants seemed to make good contact all day long, with just two strikeouts in five innings against Wildcat starter Cannon Johnson (his real name, not a pitching nickname). Shortstop Danil Wells had particular success on the day, with two line-drive singles for three RBIs, and another ball hit to the warning track.
In the top of the 5th, the Giants came alive again. With one out, pinch hitter Ben Resnick walked, with center fielder Gavin Soper coming in to pinch-run. The speedy Soper came around to score on a long, curving triple into the right field corner by Giants left fielder Sam Gersch. Then a Trono walk put runners on first and third, setting Wells up for one of his RBIs on a shot up the middle.
With Solle at the plate, Trono was caught at third on an attempted double-steal, leaving two outs and Wells on second. A Solle foul tip caught Wildcat catcher Canyon Loflin in a sensitive spot, causing Loflin to stagger four steps, then fall to the ground and roll over. After five minutes, Loflin returned to the game to a round of applause.
Solle, unimpressed, topped a slow roller to short which got caught up in the infield grass. Wildcat shortstop Nate Looney, charging, threw the ball past first baseman Kessler Koch, scoring Wells and advancing Solle to second. The Giants were now up 5-0.
The Giants tacked on three more in the 6th, starting with first baseman Rory Minty taking a fastball in the thigh from sidearm Wildcat reliever Nate Hoben. Quinn Miller came on to run for Minty, and promptly stole second base. Designated hitter Matthew Knauer slapped a single up the middle to score Miller, whereupon Hoben walked Soper and Gersch, and was pulled with the bases loaded and just one out.
Wildcat center fielder Takota Newman trotted in to assume mound duties, and got Trono swinging on a high fastball. But he couldn’t stop Wells, who cranked a line drive over Looney’s head to score both Knauer and Soper, making it 8-0 Giants.
Wells hustled into second on Schnitzius’ throw, at which point Gersch took off from third, trying to make it 9-0. The throw from Wildcat second baseman Trenton Ford was high and up the line, and Gersch probably could have scored with a regular slide. But Gersch was stymied by Loflin’s leap for the throw, which landed him right in the basepath, resulting in a standing collision, and the end of the inning.
Ford scored Ukiah’s first run in the bottom of the 6th, reaching base on a leadoff walk, then second on a passed ball. A single up the middle by designated hitter Luke Schat put the Wildcats on the board.
Solle started off the bottom of the 7th at his best, fanning Looney and new first baseman Nick Avalos for his 12th and 13th strikeouts of the game. But with a single up the middle from Newman, and a walk to Schnitius, Solle was just about out of pitches, and was pulled at 107 by Head Coach Mike Firenzi, in favor of junior right-hander Max Paul.
Paul, recently recovered from an injury to his throwing shoulder, induced some anxiety when he plunked Ford on his first pitch to load the bases, only to have Wildcat third baseman Trevor Schlafer clear them again with a double into the gap in right center.
Turning the page quickly, though, Paul bore down to strike Schat out swinging to end the game with the Giants still on top by a healthy 8-4 margin.
With the win, the Giants move to 19-8 on the year, and advance to the NCS semifinals on Wednesday against the top-ranked Casa Grande Gauchos of Petaluma, who defeated Redwood antagonist San Marin on Saturday, 4-2. The Giants can expect to see Gauchos ace Austin Steeves, who struck out 12 Northgate Broncos in the first playoff round, firing a complete-game 3-hitter to win 3-0.
The Giants managed 4 hits in 4 innings against Steeves in an early-season 6-4 loss to the Gauchos, outhitting them on the day 8-5. Only 2 of the Gaucho runs were earned during that game, as Redwood pitchers issued a total of 9 walks and hit 4 batsmen. Additionally, two of the Gaucho runs were attributable to a single Redwood error. Presumably, both teams have improved since then.
That game was also memorable for the Gaucho coach, who argued that the game should called for darkness after six innings. To see the writeup, go HERE and scroll down to March 4.