In a game that would decide North Bay League - Redwood seeding, Healdsburg junior Gavin Valls clubbed a home run over the right field fence that gave the Greyhounds a 6-5 lead in the top of the eighth inning. That proved to be the deciding factor as Healdsburg held on for a 6-5 victory over St. Vincent de Paul in extra innings on Friday afternoon.
“We were able to tack one on in the eighth and just hold on,” Healdsburg Head Coach Mark Domenichelli said. “We're just happy to get the win and keep going.”
This playoff atmosphere matchup started off with a bang as Healdsburg got out to an early 2-0 run in the top of the first behind a two-run RBI single from Valls.
The Mustangs started off cold offensively, only tallying up one hit in the first three innings, due in part to the strong start from starting pitcher Mathew Rowland. He had three strikeouts in those three innings.
Mustang pitching also started off slow as sophomore starting pitcher Josh Malik gave up three hits, two runs and a walk in the top of the first. However, following the first he kept the game in reach as he would not give up another run in the final five innings of his outing and would strike out three more batters.
“Josh, he battled out there, the first inning he didn’t have his best stuff but he was able to work out of it,” Mustangs Head Coach Spencer Finkbohner said. “He started throwing the change up a lot more and using his breaking ball, causing a lot more swings and misses.”
Malik received high praise from the opposing side for grinding out his six-inning, two-run performance.
“I thought Malik was really on, he had the breaking stuff working really well today,” Domenichelli said. “He had the breaking stuff working really well today and when he settled, we just tried to keep attacking but just couldn't.”
The Mustang bats would finally wake up with a home run over the left field fence from junior Eddy Stone in the bottom of fourth, cutting the Healdsburg lead to 2-1.
They would later go on to explode in the bottom of the sixth, beginning with senior Dante Antonini getting hit by a pitch, and then stealing both second and third base.
After a walk, a sacrifice fly from sophomore Nico Antonini, and two double steals, seniors Carter Payte and Jake Decarli had back-to-back RBI singles to score an additional two runs. That gave St. Vincent de Paul a 4-2 lead heading into the seventh with a chance to end the game.
“We started putting things together there towards the end,” Finkbohner said. “And I was glad our offense was able to show up and give us a little fight.”
Going into the top of the seventh, the Mustangs pulled Malik in favor off Dante Antonini in hopes of closing out the game out.
This pitching change seemingly woke the Greyhounds offense up as they responded quickly with a leadoff single and a walk to set up a scoring situation. Following a passed ball and a wild pitch, a sacrifice fly from junior Sam Vanden Huevel cut the Mustang lead to 4-3.
After an intentional walk, Rowland hit a RBI single to tie the game up at 4-4. Now with runners at first and third, the Greyhounds executed a double steal, with runners safe at second and home that would give them 5-4 lead going into the bottom of the seventh.
“Once they took the lead, I just told my guys one one pitch at a time, one at-bat at a time,” Domenichelli said. “And we were happy to get those runs to take the lead.”
With time running out for the Mustangs, Dante Antonini smashed a leadoff home run to center to tie the game up at 5-5, sending the game into extra innings.
Following his go-ahead home run in the top of the eighth, Valls would enter to pitch for the Greyhounds in the bottom of the eighth hoping to seal the game and clinch the two seed in the NBL-Redwood Playoffs.
He would provide a scoreless inning, sealing a 6-5 victory in extra innings in thrilling fashion.
“I'll tell you what, it felt like a college baseball game, I haven't been in one of these in a long time,” Domenichelli said. “A game with two teams that are really similar, and I have the utmost respect for their coaching staff and the school.”
On the other hand, it was a tough loss for the Mustangs, as they lost grip of the victory in the late stages of the game.
“Unfortunately, the ball didn't go our way, and I'm 100-percent responsible for this loss tonight,” Finkbohner said. “I'll definitely be thinking about it for the next couple of days and we'll be ready to rock and roll for Wednesday.”
This loss for the Mustangs means that they will be the fourth seed in the NBL-Redwood League Playoffs. They will face off against undefeated league champion West County on Wednesday on the road in the first round of the playoffs.
For the Greyhounds, their victory clinches them the second seed in the league playoffs and a home meeting against Santa Rosa on Wednesday. They are looking to make a deep run in this year's playoffs.
“I'm just looking forward to playing another game, I like coaching and I like my team,” Domenichelli said. “I like watching my guys compete, and we'll just see what happens.