Baseball | Piedmont routed by Justin-Siena

Piedmont's Markos Lagios swings during the May 25 NCS Division 4 championship game at Laney College. Lagios recently was named WACC Foothill Division MVP.

Editor’s Note: Piedmont earned an at-large berth in the California Interscholastic Federation Northern regional playoffs and received the No. 1 seed in Division 4. They hosted Capuchino on May 28 at 4 p.m. and won that game 13-1. Piedmont will host a regional semifinal game on Thursday, May 30. Check back Wednesday for the full recap of that game.

Piedmont High School’s baseball team just didn’t have it on May 25, falling to Justin-Siena-Napa 11-1 in the North Coast Section Division 4 championship game at Laney College. The game was shortened to five innings due to the mercy rule.

The rout was a bit shocking given the terrific games the teams have played over the past two seasons. A year ago, the Braves beat the Highlanders 11-10 in an NCS semifinal. Earlier this season, Piedmont beat Justin-Siena 1-0.

The season is not over for the Highlanders (17-9). They earned an at-large berth in the California Interscholastic Federation Northern regional playoffs and received the No. 1 seed in Division 4. They will host Capuchino on May 28 at 4 p.m.

Luke Giusto was the starter in the NCS final, allowing just two hits on the mound in five innings and driving in five runs at the plate. “I’m at a loss for words,” Giusto said. “This is my fourth NCS championship (game) between football and baseball. And I finally got one. I was 0-for-3.”

Luke Giusto smiles at 3B

Said Piedmont shortstop Peter Krumins of Giusto, “He shoved today. I don’t know what his stats were, but he shoved against us. He’s pitched three out of the four games we’ve played them and he’s done the same thing every time. Shoved. When we played him this year at home, shoved. Same thing. He went six innings and he allowed one run. That’s a good outing. They just ended up not scoring.”

Krumins outdueled Giusto in the 1-0 game in the regular season.

Peter Krumins fires a ball to first

Not only do Piedmont and Justin-Siena have a nice little rivalry going. The players know each other and several hit together on weekends.

“Markos (Lagios) and I hit with them every single weekend,” Krumins said. “We’re all buddies with them. We give each other jabs at second base and talking to dudes at second base. It’s really fun to play against them.”

John Olsen got the start for the Highlanders, coming off a complete-game, seven-hit shutout in a May 18 NCS second round game. He looked strong in the first two innings, retiring all six hitters he faced. But the third was a long, frustrating inning for Olsen. Jason Gray led off with a sharp bouncer to third off the glove of Jack Meyjes, which was scored an error. Ben Sebastian and Braeden Butler followed with singles and the bases were loaded.

Olsen then walked leadoff hitter Tommy Malloy to force in a run. Noah Giavannelli popped out and Olsen then struck out Everet Johnson. It appeared he might wiggle out of trouble. But he fell behind Giusto 3-0. A very generous high strike kept Giusto at the plate. And on a 3-2 pitch, Giusto lofted a fly ball to right that Shafer Dando charged but couldn’t get. The double cleared the bases and it was 4-1.

Catcher Will Parker fires the ball back to John Olsen while HP umpire Josh Henderson calls the strike.

Jake Fletcher and Sam Denkin followed with singles, the latter chasing Giusto home. Gray singled in another and an error by Dando allowed another run to score. By the time the crumb rubber had settled, it was 7-1.

“With the situations and some of the circumstances that were beyond his control, I think he had a hard time dealing with some of those and that kind of snowballed,” Piedmont coach Eric Olson said. “We didn’t back him up with some defense like we did back in the past. But I thought he threw the ball great. I thought he had a good fastball, he was landing that secondary pitch. We didn’t get a couple of calls early and that can kind of get to him. It was just one of those situations where we couldn’t fight back from that downhill spiral.”

Piedmont’s Dimitri Papahadjopoulos watches his sacrifice fly to center in the first inning on May 25. That drove in the Highlanders only run in an 11-1 loss to Justin-Siena.

Olsen came back out for the fourth but got the same results. A bunt single by Malloy started things. Giovannelli singled up the middle and Johnson was hit by a pitch.

That brought you-know-who to the plate and Giusto flared a single behind the drawn-in infield to score two more runs. Fletcher followed with a double and that was it for Olsen.

“I was telling the guys, I’ve never seen anything go for one team and against another so many times,” Olson said. “We bring the infield in and they bloop it over their heads. We bring the infield back and they go swinging bunt down the line. It was just an embarrassment of good fortune and they got some big hits with guys on base. It was just their day.”

Jack Meyjes follows through on a pitch.

The day started out going the Highlanders way. In the bottom of the first, Krumins drew a one-out walk. Will Parker singled him to third and Dimitri Papahadjopoulos hit a sacrifice fly. Giusto got out of the jam cheaply enough, getting Dando on a called strike three. Giusto isn’t overpowering with his stuff and Piedmont got baserunners in every inning. But when he needed to get an out, Giusto always came up with the big pitch. He struck out six in the game, walked two and hit three batters.

“Locates his fastball, his slider looks like the fastball until it actually breaks, which is something you have to process as a hitter,” Krumins said. “You try to look for the little dot on there. Personally, I was seeing him well, but he just dots. He literally dot everywhere. Also, I have to give it to his catcher (Fletcher) as well. When he doesn’t dot, his catcher is bringing that ball back into the strike zone.”

It has been a tremendous year for the Highlanders. They won the West Alameda County Conference Foothill Division and Lagios was named Most Valuable Player.

“Honestly, I expected myself to be in this position,” Lagios said. “Every year I feel like I’ve gotten better. My freshman year, I was pretty mad I didn’t make all-league. I was really mad. I don’t know if that played a part in my motivation. Last year, I was in the running and then I kind dropped off. This year, I was like, I’m not going to drop off. I’m going to work that much harder to be at my best throughout the whole season, not just the start and the middle.”

Olson said this might be one of the best teams he has had in his tenure. “Starting out 13-2, I think we got up to ranked No. 8 in the Bay Area, we had quality wins at O’Dowd, to win the Foothill League outright as the only Division 4 school, the smallest school in the league by far,” he said. “To get to play at Oracle Pack, it was an amazing year. These kids left everything they had out there.”

Said Lagios, “I think this is my favorite team I’ve ever been a part of. We’re all super-tight. After practice, we all hang out together basically every day. It’s like a family. I’m just going to miss it.”

Leave a Reply

The Exedra comments section is an essential part of the site. The goal of our comments policy is to help ensure it is a vibrant yet civil space. To participate, we ask that Exedra commenters please provide a first and last name. Please note that comments expressing congratulations or condolences may be published without full names. (View our full Comments Policy.)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *