5/2: The Giants continued their tailspin, losing on the road in a close battle with the Red-Tailed Hawks. With injuries and battle fatigue plaguing the Giants roster, Coach Firenzi and his coaching staff are filling holes, trying new ideas and losing sleep trying to find the magic formula that will get them back to their winning ways. Of their original 22-man roster, nine players have been taken down to injury or illness, causing them to sit out at least a game. Mononucleosis, a bleeding ulcer, near-concussion, arm injuries (that have spurned MRIs for two separate shoulders and two separate elbows), and a torn up knee-these are just a few of the injuries that have impacted the Varsity squad this year. Not sure if you noticed, but captain Henry Zeisler (presently ranked #2 in the MCAL with a .423 batting average) hasn’t played since March 21. Starting pitcher Oliver Pearson (presently ranked #4 in the MCAL with four wins) hasn’t pitched since April 4. Looking back to their MCAL opener on March 14, only four players who started in the loss against San Marin, started today.
Another void that you won’t see in any stat sheet is that Assistant Coach Joel Russo has departed after the win against Novato. Russo has been a pillar in Firenzi’s coaching staff, coaching first base while working with the the infield and defensive alignments. Russo was a stand-out player for Firenzi when he coached at Marin Catholic. After a professional baseball journey in Italy, he was one of the first to get the call from Firenzi after he was named Head Coach at Redwood. Russo departed to attend the Firefighters Academy, to follow in the footsteps of his father who was a fireman in San Francisco. Since Russo’s departure, Redwood has lost their last three games, committing nine errors in the field.
One of the four players who started in the opener against San Marin is Nicolas Belgum. Belgum is a returning starter and moved to first base from the outfield to fill the void left by Zack Kopstien who graduated and is pitching for MIT this year. With a pitching staff needing rest, Belgum was called on chew up some innings on the mound as he got the start today. After the Giants went down in the top of the first, Tam’s lead-off batter launched the second pitch Belgum threw over the left field wall. After beaning the next batter, catcher Mackie Skall recorded the first out by throwing him out on an attempted steal. Belgum walked the next two batters but was able to work out of the inning with the Giants down 1-0.
Luke Zlatunich doubled to lead off the second, but the top half of inning ended with the tying run in scoring position. Tam kept the pressure on, scoring two more runs in the bottom of the frame taking the game to the top of the third with the Giants down 3-0.
Aubrey Sine led off the inning with a single to left. Mackie Skall followed with a single up the middle and with two runners on, Josh Cohen dropped a drag bunt down the third baseline and beat the throw to load the bases. Jackson Barry scored Sine from third on a ground-out to the right side, cutting into the Hawks lead. Nicolas Belgum then helped his own cause by roping a 3-1 fastball to left, plating Skall. Anthony Pomilia ripped the first pitch he saw up the middle, tying the score 3-3. The Giants threat was stalled on a 6-4-3 double play. After a lead-off single, the Giants defense stepped up with a double-play of their own. Tam attempted a hit-and-run, Trevor Foehr nabbed a sinking liner to right and doubled off the runner at first when he threw a dart to Josh Katz. Belgum would induce another fly out to Foehr to end the inning with the score tied 3-3.
After having a hand in all three outs in the bottom of the third, Trevor Foehr led off the top of the fourth with a drag bunt single, but was quickly erased on an attempted steal. Josh Katz then walked and Aubrey Sine collected his second hit of the day, tomahawking a high fastball down the third baseline. Tam would end the inning on another double-play. After walking the first batter and giving up a hit to the next, Belgum was lifted for Trevor Foehr, sending Drew Jacks to right as Belgum went back to familiar ground at first. A fielder’s choice would send in Tam’s fourth run of the game and after a ground-out to Anthony Pomilia, Foehr struck out the next batter to end the inning with Tam leading 4-3.
The Giants went down quietly in the top of the fifth and Tam scored an insurance run in the bottom half on a single, an error and another fielder’s choice taking the game to the top of the sixth with the score 5-3 in favor of the Red-Tailed Hawks.
After the Giants went down 1-2-3, Foehr sent the Hawks down in the bottom of the sixth despite giving up a walk and a hit.
With two outs in the top of the seventh, Dane Goodman walked but the game ended after pinch-hitter Riley Marsh squared up a 2-2 fastball that landed in the glove of the centerfielder.
Again the Giants would out-hit their opponent 8-7, but would tally two errors in the field while Tam had none. Belgum suffered the loss, giving up four runs while giving up five hits. Josh Cohen, Nicolas Belgum, Anthony Pomilia, Luke Zlatunich, Mackie Skall and Trevor Foehr all had hits with Aubrey Sine breaking out with two hits of his own.
Firenzi and the coaching staff will go back to the drawing board to find the starting line-up that will get the Giants back to their winning ways as they face Justin-Siena at home on Thursday and turn around to play Marin Catholic at home on Friday. Both games are at 4:30. Redwood remains in second place behind Drake, but are in a log-jam as they are tied with several teams. Optimists say that Redwood will earn the second seed for the MCAL play-offs. Super-optimists say that Redwood can still win the round robin as with four games left, they are three games behind Drake who they play next Tuesday. Pessimists say that the Giants won’t make the play-offs, with Branson or Terra Linda somehow winning a tie-breaker. The next four games will settle the dispute.