Hounds take two of three from St. Vincent; push record to 13-4
It’s a rarity in sports when a team combines talent, chemistry and performance into one tight package, a perfect storm that can only lead to one outcome - success.
The varsity baseball Greyhounds are that package and more this year, with each passing win building on a wave of momentum that has produced one of the best seasons in the program’s history.
“This is the greatest team I’ve ever coached,” Hound’s 20-year veteran coach Mark Domenichelli said. “I’ve had teams that may have gone farther but this team is special, with 14 guys that play for each other every day.”
Healdsburg’s talent and tenacity were on full display in a recent three-game set with the St. Vincent Mustangs, a series that epitomized the 2021 campaign. The teams split the first pair of games (11-6 win, 6-5 loss) before the Hounds put it all together on Saturday in an 11-0 rout.
“It was the most fun I’ve had coaching in 15 years,” Domenichelli said of the series. “It was cat and mouse for the first two games, but the last game was easily the best we’ve played all season.”
Healdsburg opened the three-game set with St. Vincent at home on May 12, with sophomore Gavin Valls (4 IP, 6 hits, 2 ERs, 6 Ks) tossing the first four innings of a see-saw battle before handing the ball to Justice Brilliant (3 IP, 4 hits, 0 runs, K) in the fifth. The Hounds were trailing 6-4 in the bottom of the fifth when they exploded for six runs, highlighted by a clutch, two-run single off the bat of Brilliant en route to an 11-6 victory.
Brilliant was credited with the win while also swinging a hot bat (2 for 4, run, 3 RBIs). Other batting leaders were Sam Vanden Heuvel (2 for 2, run, RBI), Cole Conley (1 for 2, run, 2 RBIs), Conroy Smith (2 for 3, 3B, 2 runs, RBI), Jayson Licea (2 for 4, run, RBI), Hunter Irons (1 for 2, 2B, run, RBI) and Matthew Rowland (1 for 4, 2 runs, RBI).
Licea (6 IP, 6 hits, 3 ERs, 3 Ks) got the pitching start as the series moved to Petaluma on Friday, another game that would feature great baseball and an exciting finish. The Hounds trailed 3-2 when they rallied for three runs in the seventh to take a brief, 5-3 lead. But the Mustangs had other plans, pushing across three runs in their final at-bat to walk off with a 6-5 win.
“We played our hearts out but that’s baseball,” Domenichelli said. “I told the kids that somebody has to win and someone has to lose. I give St. Vincent a lot of credit, they just beat us.”
Brett Delfino got hot with three hits in as many trips and scored two runs while other top hitters included Brilliant (2 for 4, 3 RBIs), Irons (1 for 2, run), Vanden Heuvel (1 for 2, run) and Rowland (1 for 3).
The loss served as the ultimate motivational tool when the teams met for the series finale at Recreation Park on Saturday.
“This was a different animal,” Domenichelli noted. “I’ve never seen a team more focused and determined than the one I had on Saturday.”
All-league catcher Irons got the party started in the first inning, launching a towering, two-run bomb for the early lead. It was all the run support needed for Brilliant, who worked the first six frames, yielding five hits and no runs while fanning four in a masterful pitching performance. The Hounds tallied six runs in the first inning and added five for insurance in the fifth, while Herrguth tossed a scoreless seventh to preserve an 11-0 victory.
“This was the best played game from a Hound’s team that I’ve ever coached,” Domenichelli said later. “We had great pitching and hitting and were spot-on defensively.”
Pacing the hitting corps were Irons (2 for 4, HR, 2B, run, 2 RBIs), Herrguth (3 for 3, 2 runs), Delfino (2 for 3, 2 runs), Jack Domenichelli (2 for 3, 3 RBIs), Mac Wright (1 for 1), Vanden Heuvel (1 for 3, 2 runs), Brilliant (1 for 1, 2 runs), Rowland (1 for 4, 2 runs, 3 RBIs) and Owen Smith (2 RBIs).
The Greyhounds (13-4, 5-3) will host Piner on Friday, May 21 (Senior Night, 7 p.m.) and will wrap up the season next Wednesday, May 26 at Santa Rosa (4 p.m.).