By GERARDO RECINOS
Alhambra rode the arm of junior pitcher Cole Gifford for their second win of the season on Tuesday afternoon in a 3-0 win over Novato.
The Feb. 28 win was also Gifford’s second win of his second varsity campaign, but the junior looked seasoned beyond his years in the crucial Division III win.
In seven innings of shutout baseball, the right-hander only allowed a single hit. He only faced three batters over the minimum, and only allowed two runners to reach scoring position.
The tidy 71-pitch outing allowed a slow-moving Alhambra offense to get a few looks at their opposite on the mound, senior Robby Marchesiello.
The soft-tossing Novato starter didn’t struggle much the first time through the lineup. He only allowed a single to Spencer Schulhauser and Garret Swartz, but both Bulldogs were stranded.
However the next time Schulhauser came to the plate, the senior made the Hornet’s pitcher pay by sparking a rally with two outs.
Schulhauser singled to right, and right after him, fellow senior Jordyn Eglite walked to put a runner in scoring position. Junior catcher Zach Schuler tacked the first run of the game across the plate with a hard single to left field, allowing Schulhauser to score from second.
The Bulldogs manufactured their second run by playing smart fundamental small ball. Swartz started the rally by slapping an opposite field double, the lefty’s second hit of the night.
He was moved over by senior Matt Peon del Valle, and driven in on a RBI ground out by another senior, Daymyn Blalock.
Two runs seemed more than enough for Gifford, who went 4 2/3 innings without allowing a hit.
But even after he finally did allow a two-out double to junior Bryan Darlington, he settled in an induced a quick ground out.
It only took three pitches for him to get out of the mini jam. Like he had most of the night, the junior attacked the strike zone and got a first pitch strike. He did so to 15 of the 24 batters he faced.
No one else would reach base for Novato, as Gifford mystified the Hornets lineup. Working off the fast ball, Gifford spun a few curve balls to stay in shape. His best came in the seventh, where he got his sixth punch out of the afternoon in three pitches.
The Bulldogs had gotten their starter another insurance run in the bottom half of the sixth inning to insure Gifford would need to collapse to lose the ball game.
After a bloop single off the bat of Trent Greene fell between two Hornets players. Schulhauser ignited the rally for the third run by getting hit, rather than getting a hit.
Greene would go on to score on Novato’s third error of the night, a dropped fly ball off the bat of Eglite.
The win gave the Bulldogs their second in as many games under first-year coach Ray Stokes.
Both have come with Gifford on the mound, as Eglite has only just joined the team after finishing duties with the basketball team.
Both wins have been shutouts, but Gifford toned down the walk totals in his second win. The junior has only allowed to hits on the season so far.
Ironically, both have been extra base hits. However neither have come around to score.