Varsity Giants Drop a 12 Inning Heartbreaker to Archie Williams

3/30/23:  The Redwood Varsity Baseball Giants went flat on Thursday, letting the Peregrine Falcons of Archie Williams come back, hang around, and then finally win an extra-inning contest in San Anselmo, 3-2.  Although the Giants managed 10 hits over 12 innings, and only struck out twice, their contact never converted into scoring, as they stranded 16 runners on the day. 

Things seemed to start off well for the Giants, who came in riding a 6-game winning streak, as they got on the board in the top of the 2nd against Falcon starter Charlie Scola.  Center fielder Gavin Soper and left fielder Tyler Sofnas both reached base on infield singles, before catcher Rory Coughlan poked a seeing-eye grounder up the middle to score Soper.

Right fielder Jack Moseley followed with a spinning bunt that was about to die on the third base line. Falcon catcher Gilly Roth pounced on it late, firing wildly past first baseman Sam Black,  scoring Sofnas, making it 2-0 with runners on 2nd and 3rd and only one out.

But while their fortunes looked bright at that moment, the Giants were unable to score further in the inning, and in fact came to bat a whopping ten more times without scoring. 

Meanwhile, Giants’ starting pitcher Rory Minty was enjoying a typically effective game, allowing no hits through the first three innings, and only one hit through five. The Falcons had only three baserunners through five innings, and one was just temporary.  With two outs in the 3rd inning, Minty walked Falcon left fielder Max Lefferts, only to watch catcher Rory Coughlan gun him down at second two pitches later. 

In the bottom of the 4th, Scola led off with a slow roller just past the mound, then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Evans. Black’s towering foul pop brought first baseman Ben Resnick all the way over to the side fence, where he deftly reached above the out-of-bounds marker to snare the ball for out number two, with Scola reaching third on the tag. The Rory-Rory battery came through again for the Giants, though, as Minty fired a fastball past third baseman Henry Hanavan, with Coughlan handling the foul tip to retire the side.

Things didn’t go the Giants’ way in the bottom of the 6th. The Falcons quickly loaded the bases on singles by right fielder Luca Genovese and Lefferts, followed by a well-placed bunt single by Scola. Minty, facing his first real threat in a while, responded by striking out second baseman Jack Evans on three pitches, freezing Evans in his shoes with a dastardly curveball for strike three.

Now with one out and the bases still loaded, cleanup hitter Black lifted what looked to be a routine fly ball out to Gavin Soper in center field. With the normally sure-handed Soper camped under the ball, the question became whether Genovese would score on the tag, or whether Soper would throw him out, preserving Minty’s shutout.  As Black’s ball arrived, Soper set his feet and began shifting his momentum forward to optimize his throw. But unfortunately, at that moment, and unbeknownst to the crowd, Soper was not 100%. In fact, earlier in the day on the basepaths, Soper had hyperextended his left knee while scoring Redwood’s first run.

And as he stepped forward for the throw, Soper’s left cleat caught in the Archie outfield turf, aggravating his knee. Wincing in pain, Soper lost track of the ball, which bounced off of his glove and fell to the ground at his feet, allowing Genovese to score. Instead of being out of the inning up 2-0, the Giants were now up just 2-1, still with only one out, and the bases still loaded.

Giants shortstop Danil Wells dove to his right to corral Falcon third baseman Henry Hanavan’s sharp grounder in the hole, then threw ahead from the seat of his pants to third baseman Rex Solle, forcing Scola for out number two. Unfortunately, Lefferts scored on the play to tie the game 2-2, but things could have been worse.  The Giants finally got out of the inning when pinch-hitter Tiernan Bratcher-Mahon tapped a slow roller to second base, where Theo Trono waited just long enough for first baseman Ben Resnick to get back to the base and make the play.

Down to their last out in the top of the 7th, the Giants put together something of a threat. Moseley beat out a grounder to short, then stole second. Trono followed with a walk, then both orchestrated a double steal, putting runners on second and third, and bringing Solle, the Giants’ leading hitter, to the plate. Sadly, Solle’s squib down the first base line was handled easily by Black, retiring the side.

Minty, rebounding from his rough patch in the 6th, retired the Falcons in order in the bottom of the 7th, sending the game into extra innings, but also nearly maxing out his pitch count, and finishing his day.

The Giants went down in order in the top of the 8th (and in 3 of the 5 extra innings), but the Falcons weren’t as quiet in the bottom of the 8th against reliever Chas Veley, as Lefferts worked an 0-2 count into a leadoff walk, advancing to second on a passed ball, then to third on a comebacker.

With one out, and the winning run on third, Evans lifted a fly ball to center eerily similar to the one Soper had dropped two innings ago. This time, Soper made the play cleanly, holding Lefferts at third, and bringing cleanup hitter Black to the plate with two outs.

Black and Veley had squared off before.  Now, in 2023, in the bottom of the 8th, Veley came up big, striking out Black with a curveball away to retire the side. The score remained tied 2-2.

In the bottom of the 9th, the Falcons caused another minor scare, putting two runners on with two outs. Roth reached on a slap single up the middle, which Wells reached but had no play on. Then Falcon DH Hudson Lofrano hit what looked to be a routine ground ball to Solle at third. 

By this time, the San Anselmo afternoon sun had nearly set out in left field, and was so low in the sky that Minty was blinded on Solle’s throw across to first, dropping it and putting the winning run in scoring position. Fortunately, Veley again came up with the stop, striking out Genovese to retire the side.

After 11 innings, with the sun fully gone behind the trees, the coaches and umpires agreed to play at most one more inning. If the game remained tied after that, it would be resumed at Redwood the following day before their regularly-scheduled rubber match.

With that in mind, the Giants seriously threatened in the top of the 12th against Falcon pitcher Nick Forrest (now working his 5th inning in relief). With one out, Mosely, already with two hits on the day, worked a walk, advancing to second on a beautiful bunt single by Trono. Solle followed with a single up the middle, sending Moseley racing around third towards the plate. Unfortunately, Falcon starting pitcher Scola was now in center field, and uncorked a perfect throw to gun down Mosely by two steps, leaving runners on second and third with two outs.

With the infield and outfield in, and tensions high, the Falcons elected to intentionally walk known quantity Minty to load the bases and get to Veley. But their gamble appeared to fail when Veley stirred the crowd with a line drive to right-center that looked to break open the game.  But the breakthrough was not to be. Maddeningly for Giants fans, Genovese had been playing well off the line in right field, and was able to race over, make the catch and retire the side.

Leading off the Falcons’ final at-bat in the bottom of the 12th, pinch hitter Ryan Smith-Stewart slapped a grounder into the hole. Catlike, Solle skittered to his left to cut the ball off and make the play. The sun had been gone for at least 30 minutes by now, so Minty’s main concern at first had changed to handling Solle’s throw in the dark, which he did for out number one.

Genovese followed with a sinking liner up the middle, which Trono dove for and managed to knock down, but couldn’t make a play on. Perhaps a bit rattled, and now facing the top of the order, Veley walked Lefferts on four pitches, putting runners on first and second with one out, and the dangerous Scola (already with two hits and two walks on the day) coming to bat.

At this point, needing a stop, Head Coach Mike Firenzi brought in Solle to replace Veley. Even though Firenzi had slated Solle to start the following day, the current situation allowed a maximum of three more batters. And coming off of a dominating 15-strikeout performance, Solle seemed a perfect fit for the occasion, dealing heat in the dark to strike out Scola looking on four pitches.

Alas, with only one out needed to shut the door on a long day, the momentum turned against Redwood. Solle couldn’t find the plate, walking Evans on five pitches to load the bases, then Black on four pitches to end the game. The Falcons mobbed Black at first, right in front of the Redwood dugout, as the Giants trudged off in the dark, smarting at their first MCAL loss of the year.

With the loss, the Giants move to 10-2 on the season (6-1 MCAL). The teams are set to square off again tomorrow at Redwood, where Solle will get another chance to see the Falcons’ lineup, this time in broad daylight.

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