4/8/23:   Pitching depth became an issue on both sides today, as the Redwood Varsity Baseball Giants fell to the College Park Falcons of Pleasant Hill, 14-9, on the third and final day of the Service Champions Classic Tournament at Foothill High School in Pleasanton. Up early 2-0, the Giants allowed three or more runs in four straight innings to hand the game to the Falcons.

The day started out brilliantly for the Giants, as second baseman Theo Trono led off the game with a rope down the right field line for a double, coming in to score immediately on third baseman Rex Solle’s sacrifice bunt. Falcon catcher Sean McGinty threw the ball away at first, and the ever-alert Trono came in just ahead of the tag.

The Giants added another run in the top of the 2nd, built around infield hits by catcher Rory Coughlan and DH Jack Corvi. Pinch-runner Sam Gersch, running for Coughlan, stole second, advanced to third on Corvi’s grounder, then broke for home after Corvi stole second, and the Falcons mishandled the throw.

Meanwhile, Giants starting pitcher Chas Veley was running hot and cold, loading the bases in the first, then easily dispatching the Falcons in the second. In the bottom of the 3rd, Veley had given up a run on a hit batsman and single, when he was pulled with two outs after hitting his second batter of the inning. The score stood at 2-1 Giants.

Inheriting runners at first and second, Giants utility man Ben Resnick walked the bases loaded, then watched a bloop fall into left field fall for a single. With the runners moving on contact, two runs scored, giving the Falcons the lead 3-2.

The Giants fought back in the top of the 4th, starting with successive singles up the middle by right fielder Jack Moseley and Coughlan, tying the game 3-3. Then, after Falcon pitcher Hunter Pelayo hit Corvi in the forearm, it took two conferences between umps and coaches to award Corvi first base. Pelayo then plunked the next batter, Giants left fielder Tyler Sofnas, for good measure, as if to confirm that the umps had made the right decision on Corvi.

With just one out, the bases were loaded for Trono, who hit a sharp comebacker which looked like it might end the inning. Pelayo wheeled and dished to shortstop Vincent Vasell, who double-clutched for the second time in the inning, throwing behind the speedy Trono, and allowing Coughlan to score the go ahead run, 4-3.

With the bases still loaded, hopes were high for Solle, who had knocked one out just two days prior on the same field, but Solle, hoping to recreate his past heroics, swung and missed at a strike three somewhere up around his eyeballs.

In the bottom of the 4th, the Falcons loaded the bases with no outs on a walk, a well-placed bunt, and an ball in the hole that Solle made a circus play on to keep in the infield. McGinty then tied the game 4-4 with a sacrifice fly to center field, deep enough such that Gavin Soper’s throw couldn’t hold the runner at second.

With Falcons on first and third and one out, right fielder Samuel Johnston unloaded a bomb over Soper’s head in center field. Soper almost caught up with it for a Willie Mays-style catch, but instead, it fell for a two-run double, giving the Falcons a lead they would never relinquish. Resnick’s final batter, Vasell, pulled a scorcher down the right field line to score Johnston, but in a bright moment for the Giants, Moseley gunned down Vasell at second, with shortstop Danil Wells applying an amazing behind-the-back tag. The score stood 7-4 Falcons after four innings.

With work to do, the Giants went down in order in their half of the 5th, then gave up four more runs in the bottom of the inning to fall deeper in the hole, 11-4.  Sophomore Jack Gurley, called up from the JV for the tournament, was brought in for Resnick, and the Falcons loved the move, taking advantage of Gurley’s control to swing freely.

But the Falcons were scraping the bottom of their pitching barrel, sending in two position players as pitchers to close out the last two innings, and giving up five runs in the process, mostly to Giant substitutes.  Coughlan stroked his third hit of the game, then the Giants sandwiched a couple of hits betwen a walk, wild pitch, hit batsman, infield error, and dropped third strike, to end their half of the 6th down 11-8.  The wheels were really falling off for both teams.

The Falcons resumed their batting practice in the bottom of the 6th, scoring 3 more on a variety of hits and Giants miscues. When it came time for the Giants’ last at-bat, the wear and tear of three days of distant tournament play seemed palpable on players and fans alike.

New left fielder Sam Gersch hit a sacrifice fly to drive in new right fielder Wyatt Turkington and round out the scoring at 14-9, but that was too little, too late. After playing their best ball of the year on Thursday, the Giants had lost a squeaker on Friday, then showed up ragged on Saturday.

The loss brings Redwood to 13-4 on the year (8-1 MCAL), and ends their tournament at 1-2. The Giants get a break next week, with a lone rescheduled game against the Terra Linda Trojans, a team they steamrolled 14-0 in their first meeting.  The Giants will need the rest to gear up for their rival matchup the following week as they take on the Wildcats of Marin Catholic.

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