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Redwood Bark

Redwood Bark

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Back at the top: Boys’ varsity baseball knocks off San Marin to claim MCAL banner

As the boys’ varsity baseball team entered the 2024 Marin County Athletic League (MCAL) championship game against San Marin, the bitter taste of the 2022 MCAL championship loss to Marin Catholic and the 2023 MCAL semifinal loss to San Marin was still in their mouth.

“I’ll never forget that loss last year. It gave us motivation in the offseason to work even harder than we had before. I knew that if we had another shot, we would make it count,” senior captain Gavin Soper said.

As this year’s anticipated matchup began, the Giants suffered a quick blow with the third batter of the game; San Marin’s Sean McGrath sent a changeup into the bleachers to give the Mustangs a 2-0 lead. However, the Giants’ senior captain and UCLA commit Rex Solle settled in quickly, finishing the night with eight strikeouts in five innings of work. For San Marin, McGrath was dominant on the mound early on, holding the Giants scoreless through the first three innings. But, all season long, Redwood has dealt with adversity, and coming from behind was nothing new.

“I never had a doubt in my mind. We all trust each other and know that we can come back from any lead. Our coaches have planted the word composure in our heads and it comes in clutch in moments like these,” junior Sam Gersch said. 

Solle led off the fourth inning with a double down the left-field line, followed up by a single from Gersch. Junior Matthew Knauer turned on a fastball from McGrath, roping a double into the gap and scoring Solle. Then, on a daring call from coach Mike Firenzi, junior Lucas Ghio laid down a suicide squeeze bunt to tie the game at two apiece. 

The Mustangs responded right back in the fifth inning, as Solle hit two batters, walked one and then threw a wild pitch, leading to a San Marin run. With the bases loaded and McGrath up, sophomore Theo Trono fielded a ground ball and turned a double play to keep the Mustang lead at just one. Continuing his fantastic night, Trono led off the bottom of the fifth, hitting a hard ground ball and reaching on an error. After a bunt and a ground out, junior Miles Harrison came up with two outs and a runner on third. Harrison came up clutch, smoking a first-pitch fastball down the first base line, tying the game up 3-3. 

“I love Miles [Harrison]; he is one of my best friends. [Coach Firenzi] told him he was [pinch hitting] and he was ready. It’s not an easy thing to do when you haven’t played the whole game. That was the biggest at-bat we had,” Gersch said. 

But, the brutal back-and-forth game continued, and San Marin took a 4-3 lead off an error and two balks in the top of the sixth. With just six outs left, the MCAL championship was on the line, but the Giants would not go down easy. Ghio reached on an error and junior TJ Beck was hit by a pitch, giving the Giants runners on first and second with two outs. Trono came up clutch once again, lacing a single into center field and tying the game 4-4. Just two pitches later, a wild pitch escaped the grasp of catcher Cole Chamberlain, and Beck came in to give the Giants the lead. 

Knauer, the Giants’ closer, came on in the bottom of the seventh, attempting to seal the lead. His first pitch hit Daniel Rolovich, but after a popup and strikeout, the Giants were one out away from the championship. Knauer coaxed Texas commit Cole Chamberlain to hit a ground ball right at Solle, who threw the ball across the diamond, seemingly securing the win. The fans stormed the field and the parents celebrated, but the game wasn’t over. The umpires deemed that freshman Chase Johnson had come off the bag, and the runner was safe. With McGrath up to bat, a curveball scooted past sophomore catcher Ethan Ferry, and the Mustangs tied it up 5-5. Knauer quickly retired McGrath, but the damage had been done. 

“Once they scored we knew we had to get the bats rolling again. It’s a long game, and it’s easy to get tired but we stayed locked in and continued to ball,” Soper said.

Redwood was unable to score in the bottom of the seventh inning, but Knauer shut down San Marin in the top of the eighth. Ghio walked, Johnson singled to left and Beck laid down a bunt to give the Giants runners at second and third with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. The Mustangs decided to intentionally walk Trono, bringing Soper up to the plate with the bases loaded. 

“All game long I was waiting for a chance to take the game away from them. For a few days I have been thinking about this exact moment so I knew I was ready,” Soper said.

Ready he was, and on the second pitch, Soper drilled a ball into the right field gap to knock in the winning run. For the second time in this game, the team celebrated, only this time, it was really over. Redwood baseball earned its first MCAL championship banner since 2018 and now has its sights set on something even bigger.

“The job isn’t finished,” Gersch said. 

The Giants will face the Tamalpais Hawks in the first round of the North Coast Section playoffs at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 15.

 

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About the Contributors
Gil Ladetzky
Gil Ladetzky, Podcast Editor
Gil Ladetzky is a senior at Redwood High School and the podcast editor for the bark. He loves playing basketball, going on adventure with friends, family dinners and Sol Food.
Hayden Donehower
Hayden Donehower, Business Manager
Hayden Donehower is a junior at Redwood High School and a business manager for the Bark. He enjoys playing lacrosse, spending time with friends and surfing.