The Credo Gryphon forced a relatively close victory, 5-0, over the Calistoga Wildcats last Tues., May 7 in their final conference game of the season.
Now a shutout might not seem close, but it’s a far cry from the utter destruction the Gryphon wrought the last time the two teams faced off. That game, back in the middle of April, ended in a 23-3 Gryphon win. So the fact that the Wildcats kept the Gryphon within five points was remarkable, according to the Gryphon’s head coach, John Aliotti.
“Our bats were a little quieter than I expected, but the defense did what it had to do to cover. The defense was phenomenal,” Aliotti said. “[Calistoga Coach Earl Caruthers] and I talked about that. He graduated a bunch of guys and has a very young team. My first year with the team I had no seniors (...). It goes in cycles. His guys have a lot of raw talent.”
Credo’s baseball team is relatively young, only five years old, and Aliotti has worked hard since his term of coaching began back in 2016 to forge the team into something worthy of an NCS Championship. This season has been the culmination of his and his team’s efforts—many of whom have served under Aliotti for the entirety of their high school career. In essence, this is the Gryphon’s one shot before many of them graduate and go off to places unknown and their efforts were on full display against the Wildcats.
The Gryphon seized an early lead in the first inning when they caught the Wildcats by surprise and landed four quick runs, but their momentum swiftly stalled. It wasn’t until the third inning when Gryphon Claude Pepe smacked the ball hard into left field that they found their next whole.
The hit only brought Pepe to first, but when his freshman teammate Jack Sheehan knocked the ball between the legs of the Wildcats’ shortstop, Christian Caldera, he moved to second. A few pitches later Pepe and Sheehan stole third and second respectively after an error at home plate. It was just enough to bring Pepe home when his teammate, Tanner Rozema, hit a grounder into Caldera’s gloves.
Pepe made it home for the Gryphon’s only point after the first inning. “[This being my first year] is kind of hard. I’m a freshman and that’s a lot of it. The expectation is so much lower,” Sheehan said. “You have to be better than the seniors and juniors because you have less experience on a high school team. I just do my work.”
With scoring opportunities rare, it was the Gryphon’s defense which eventually won the game. The Wildcats have a youthful team with more than their fair share of freshman and it was that inexperience which prevented them from getting on the board. It wasn’t that they had trouble landing on base; no, the Wildcats’ problem was that once they were there they had a nasty habit of overextending.
The first instance happened after Caldera hit a single. He tried to advance to second, but the Gryphon’s first and second basemen caught him in a pickle. The struggle eventually drew almost the entirety of the Gryphon’s defense, resulting in an out.
It wasn’t the only pickle. The second one happened late in the sixth inning after the Wildcats’ Adan Rodrigues landed on third after his teammate hit a double into the outfield. Rodrigues hesitated for a moment and it was that hesitation which killed him; he got caught in a pickle and as he made for home Pepe chased him down from third and tagged him out.
“It’s been one of those seasons. This is the first time we’ve gone seven innings with a team over five hundred all year. It’s just progress,” Wildcats’ coach, Earl Caruthers, said. “We walked eighteen batters the last time we faced these guys. This is one of our best performances. We’re just getting better. That’s the bottom line. This has been a super frustrating year.”
Now with the regular season over the Gryphon advances into the playoffs. Their first match will be Sat., May 18.