Giants end season in devastating loss in first NCS game

Despite defeating Drake in the Marin County Athletic League (MCAL) Championship, the 7th-seeded Redwood varsity baseball team lost in the first round of the Northern Coast Section (NCS) Division II playoffs against 10th-seeded Rancho Cotate 4-1, ultimately ending their season.

Sophomore pitcher Nick Welch started the game off slow, walking the first batter, but came back delivering two shutout innings.

“After I walked the first batter, I really focused in and started pounding strikes. I tried working the corners and changing up my speeds to keep them off balance and it worked until the third inning,” Welch said.

As Welch began to groove strikes, Rancho Cotate caught up to his velocity, knocking in a run off a single to the right field gap to take the lead, 1-0. Welch, determined to end the inning, followed up getting the next two batters out.

Junior Genki LeClair responded quickly, hitting a double to get Redwood’s hitting started in the bottom of the third. Seniors Dane Goodman and Josh Cohen proceeded to reach base, loading the bases for senior Mackie Skall. Skall then drove the ball to the outfield, scoring Redwood’s first and only run of the game on a sacrifice fly, tying the score 1-1.

Just as Redwood’s offense began to click, their defense began working as a collective, shutting down Rancho Cotate’s offense. Skall, the catcher, threw a man out who was trying to steal and Welch followed up striking out the next two batters with his offspeed pitches.

After the run scored by Skall in the third inning, Redwood’s offense went cold. Rancho Cotate, on the other hand, excelled at the plate. The Cougars started the fifth inning by hitting a double and single to the gap scoring a run, reclaiming the lead 2-1. Then, they bunted in another run to extend the lead even more, 3-1. With a player on third base, Rancho Cotate refused to quiet their bats, driving in another run on a double, making the score 4-1. According to head coach Mike Firenzi, the Giants’ hitting was satisfactory, but not strategical.

“Our hitting was good, but we just didn’t execute when we needed to. We ended up having more hits than Rancho Cotate, but just didn’t get the hits when we needed them,” Firenzi said.

Senior Ollie Pearson came in to relieve Welch in the top of the seventh inning and shut down their offense striking out two and drawing a groundout. However, Redwood couldn’t come back and ended up not scoring in the bottom of the seventh inning, ending the game 4-1.

Despite the loss, Firenzi is proud of the team and their perseverance.

“I’m really proud of how they fought all the way down. They had an amazing [MCAL] playoff run to win the championship, especially being the underdogs,” Firenzi said.

As the season came to a close, emotions were high, especially among the seniors who will be going off to college. Senior Luke Zlatunich experienced these emotions of disbelief and sadness.

“It really hasn’t sunk in yet that this is the end. I have been playing with most of these guys since I was 8 years old, and it’s crazy to think that today we are done. Baseball has been a part of my life since as long as I can remember and now it’s come to an end. All in all, in the end, we are MCAL champs. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything, it’s been amazing,” Zlatunich said.

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