Novato High wins with wood bats

May 26, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The legacy of a Marin County high school pitcher's near-fatal injury was very clear at the North Coast Sectional baseball playoffs. Novato High School proved they could win with wood bats against teams using high-performance metal bats.

The Novato High School Hornets conquered their fear that playing teams with metal bats would put them at an unfair disadvantage.

"One of the proudest moments as a coach I've ever had. You guys were unbelievable today. They gave us a pea shooter and we came back and played with nothing but heart," said Novato High School assistant coach Mark Stutzman to his team.

Novato High and every team in the Marin County Athletic League decided to use only wood bats after Marin Catholic pitcher, Gunnar Sandberg, was struck in the head with a line drive, off a metal bat, and nearly died.

"Metal hits the ball a lot farther, a lot harder," said Novato High School junior Matt Mendelsohn.

Novato coaches offered to supply wood bats, for what they believed would be a safer playoff game, but Dougherty Valley kindly replied, "No thank you."

Novato felt like they were protecting their opponents pitcher, but their opponent was refusing to protect theirs.

"We know it's a touchy issue, but we just went by the rules the NCS gave us, nothing more than that," said Dougherty Valley head coach Brian Freitas.

This put Dougherty Valley in a pickle. They faced the pressure of being labeled insensitive if they stuck to metal and faced a disadvantage by switching to wood against a team that used wood bats all season.

"I thought that was very unfair to put anybody in that situation," said Freitas.

Novato's pitcher wore a helmet and their coach turned their disadvantage into a lesson about integrity and honor.

"We said we were going to do something, and we're going to follow through with what we said we're going to do," said Stutzman.

They kept their word, and they'll take their wood bats into the second round of playoffs, likely against a team using metal bats.

"We just came in here, just playing our game, seeing what we could do and now that we did beat a team that was using aluminum, we know we can do it no matter what," said Novato High School senior Jacob Kraft.


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