4/28/23:  The Redwood Varsity Baseball Giants rode the arm of starting pitcher Rex Solle to a 2-1 victory Friday over the Novato Hornets at Ed Salmina Field in Novato – a key victory in their stretch run to the MCAL playoffs. Overcoming a few potentially costly mistakes, and with just four hits on the day, the Giants came up with a pair of timely hits in the 7th, then held on by their fingernails to eke out the win.

The Giants got on the board right away against Novato’s freshman starter JP Harmon, mostly due to Hornet errors. Left fielder Sam Gersch led off the game with a weak comebacker to Harmon for the first out. And when second baseman Theo Trono tapped an even weaker comebacker towards Harmon, it seemed that Giant bats would be impotent for the afternoon.
But Harmon cut the Giants a break. Bending over halfheartedly towards Trono’s dribbler, Harmon let it bounce off of his shin for an error, then paid little attention as Trono proceeded to steal second and third.
Solle followed with a grounder to shortstop Andy Gates, who threw the ball in the dirt to first baseman Hannes Gerber, allowing Trono to score, and putting the Giants on the board 1-0
The Hornets were nearly handed a gift in the bottom of the 2nd. Harmon led things off with a rake single on a good pitch from Solle, who responded by striking out left fielder Jacob Rabb and right fielder Nathan Dito. Second baseman Griffin Vorhaus also watched a tight curveball spin into the zone for strike three, and began walking dejectedly to the dugout, believing the side was retired.
But the ump hadn’t said anything. Vorhaus returned to the box somewhat sheepishly. Reincarnated at the plate, Vorhaus crushed a pitch just foul outside the left field line, then blasted a long fly ball to the fence in right center. Thankfully, Giants right fielder Jack Moseley was able to get over there and haul it in.
The Hornets threatened in the bottom of the 3rd as well, not entirely on their own merit. Center fielder Dominic Scafani started things off with a nice bunt to the third base side, which Solle handled beautifully, setting his feet before delivering a strong throw to nip Scafani at first.
Gerber followed with a routine grounder to Giants shortstop Danil Wells, who took his time, underestimating Gerber’s speed, and missing him at first unnecessarily. Giants catcher Rory Coughlan, eager to erase Gerber as a baserunner, instead advanced him to second, throwing wildly down to first on a snap pickoff attempt.
With the tying run now in scoring position, and only one out, Solle bore down to strike out Hornet catcher Evan Black, before getting third baseman Julian Oliver on a pop foul to first.
The Giants also shot themselves in the foot on the basepaths. In the top of the 4th, Solle reached on an error by Oliver, then moved to second on a grounder by Coughlan. With Minty up and one out, Solle was caught leaning by Harmon, who wheeled to second for the pickoff.
With one out in the top of the 5th, designated hitter Matt Knauer dropped a double just inside the right field line, but a Redwood scoring chance was again wasted when Harmon pulled the exact same move for the second straight inning, retiring Knauer and the side.
It looked like those would be Redwood’s best scoring chances for the remainder of the day, as the Giants continued on empty, and found themselves down to their last out in the top of the 7th. Head Coach Mike Firenzi elected to pinch-hit Tyler Sofnas for Wells, and Sofnas made Firenzi look like a genius, hammering the first pitch he saw up the middle for a single.
Knauer, eager to make up for his baserunning faux pas in the 5th, reached up and slapped a high fastball down the left field line for his second consecutive double of the game, scoring Sofnas, and increasing Firenzi’s genius aura for DH’ing Knauer in the first place. The score was now 2-0 Redwood.
Going into the bottom of the 7th, and having struck out 9 times already against Solle, the Hornets were searching for answers. After all, this was ostensibly the best lineup around, with a team batting average of .316, by far the highest in the MCAL (Redwood is 4th at .283).
Solle nearly handed them all the answers, opening the inning with six straight balls, and issuing his only walk of the day – to Gates – in the process.  With the count 2-0, and the dangerous Harmon at the plate, Solle flipped a switch, battling back to a full count, then sitting Harmon down with a filthy curveball on the outside corner. One out – two to go.
Just when it seemed the momentum was swinging to a final downhill push for the Giants, Rabb sliced a single to right field. As Gates rounded second, Moseley charged the ball, focused on preparing for the throw to third. However, while glancing up at the runner, Moseley took his eye off the ball, which rolled right past him and to the fence.
Gates scored, making it 2-1, and Rabb easily cruised into third. Ay-yai-yai…The tying run was now on third, with only one out!
But once again, Solle came through, striking out Dito on another malicious curveball for out number two. And when Vorhaus sent a towering fly ball into shallow right field, Redwood fans closed their eyes and crossed their fingers. But it was Trono, ranging back onto the grass and calling off Moseley, who sealed the deal for the Giants, by a final score of 2-1.
With the win, the Giants move to 16-6 on the year (11-3 MCAL). In the MCAL standings, the Giants stay within a game of Marin Catholic (10-2), who have four games scheduled this week (home and away against both San Rafael and Archie Williams). The Giants also remain a game ahead of Tam (10-4), which closes its regular season this week home and away against San Marin (8-6).
With the loss, Novato (7-7) drops behind San Marin for the fourth and final spot in the MCAL playoffs, although that could change this week, with San Marin up against Tam, and Novato home and away against Terra Linda. The playoffs begin May 9, with a play-in game if necessary on May 6.
With 11 strikeouts in the game, Solle maintains his position atop the MCAL, with 84 Ks for the year (in 50 innings). Fellow Giant hurler Rory Minty holds the second spot with 67, while Rabb of Novato sits in a distant third place with 53.
The Giants close out their regular season next week against the Branson Bulls, hosting the Bulls on Tuesday, before traveling to Ross on Thursday. Tuesday is “Senior Night” for the Giants, and there will be a brief ceremony *before* the game, honoring our Redwood Giant seniors, and the parents who made them so.

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