In Wild Weekend Series, Sagehens Sweep Stags Behind Miraculous Comebacks

Pomona-Pitzer baserunner Seth Stone PZ ’21 (left) stops to have a joke with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps second basemen Patrick Gavin CM ’21 in the middle of an intense Sixth Street rivalry matchup April 7. (Sarah Sundermeyer • The Student Life)

The Pomona-Pitzer baseball team (20-9, 11-4 SCIAC) pulled off a series of shocking comebacks last weekend, taking three games against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (15-16, 6-9 SCIAC), and completing a season sweep of the Stags for the second year in a row.

Game one of the series took place Friday at CMS’s Bill Arce Field, and although it took extra innings, the Sagehens were able to pick up a 6-5 win on the road.

CMS held a 4-3 lead through seven innings, but in the top of the eighth, the Sagehens plated two runs to take a 5-4 lead, thanks to a CMS throwing error and the third RBI single of the day for Brian Knapp PO ’20.

Despite not getting a hit in the next two frames, the Stags were still able to force extra innings. In the bottom of the ninth, still trailing by one, Ryan Motter CM ’19 was hit by a pitch. As he tried to steal second, the throw ricocheted into the outfield and Motter advanced to third. A wild pitch then brought him home to tie the game.

In the tenth inning, it was the Sagehens’ turn to benefit from throwing errors; Seth Stone PZ ’20 was hit by a pitch and then advanced to third after a failed pickoff attempt. Hunter Hennigh PZ ’21 sacrificed a fly and brought home the unearned run.

Brett Super PZ ’21 shut the door on the Stags in the bottom of the tenth and P-P snuck back across Sixth Street with a wild win that foreshadowed the games to come Saturday.

In game two, as the series shifted to P-P’s Alumni Field, the Stags came out looking for revenge, and were able to build a commanding 7-3 lead through the first six innings.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Sagehens tapped into a bit of the comeback magic that propelled them to the series sweep.

With two on and two out in the sixth, Knapp stepped up to the plate and changed the momentum of the game with one swing of the bat. His three-run bomb to left field off Konnor Kwok CM ’20 pulled the Sagehens within one and forced a pitching change from CMS.

“I had faced [Kwok] the day before and was looking for a pitch out over the plate, a mistake to get barrel on,” Knapp said. “I thought [Kwok] made a decent pitch … but I was able to stay through it well enough to get it in the air. I wasn’t trying to do anything but hit the ball hard”

John O’Malley CM ’18 stepped in to relieve Kwok, but his arrival on the mound couldn’t solve the Stags’ problems. The next man up, Nolan McCafferty PO ’20, was hit by a pitch, and Jeremiah Quezada PZ ’20 followed up Knapp’s home run with a two-run shot of his own, putting the Sagehens up 8-7.

Quezada had a similar approach to Knapp as he stepped up to the plate. “I never think I need to hit a homerun. I always just want to make good contact with the ball and drive it somewhere,” he said.

With the Stags’ offense sputtering, the Sagehens continued their scoring deluge in the seventh. With men on second and third with two outs, Hennigh slid a single through a gap in left field to put P-P ahead 10-7.

But Motter’s RBI single in the bottom of the eighth gave CMS some life, and a solo home run from CJ Novogradac CM ’19 in the ninth pulled the Stags back within one with one out in the bottom of the last inning.

Despite giving up the lead, the Stags never went down without a fight.

“There is always a chance to come back in such a close game,” Novogradac said.

However, Super was once again able to pull through on the mound for the Sagehens, striking out the last two batters to seal the 10-9 victory.

Determined to not get swept by their rivals, the Stags shrugged off the disappointing defeats and got out to another hot start in game three, leading 6-1 through six.

Entering the bottom of the seventh, CMS pulled starting pitcher Justin Hull CM ’20, who had thrown brilliantly, allowing one run on four hits in six innings. Then things fell apart for the Stags.

“When we were down 6-1 in game three, I told the guys to keep fighting and put some pressure on them,” Sagehen coach Frank Pericolosi said. “Their pitcher was doing a great job and we were fortunate to get that rally in the seventh.”

O’Malley came in to relieve Hull, but walked Duncan Skerrett PO ’18 to lead off the inning and was immediately pulled for Brandon Mitchell CM ’21. Knapp, the first batter to face Mitchell, hit a single into right field to put men on first and second with no outs. The pair advanced to second and third on a passed ball and Skerrett scored soon after on a single from Quezada and an error in the field.

It only got worse for CMS. An RBI single from Bryce Rogan PO ’18 drove home Knapp, and Cade Hulse PO ’18 then loaded the bases after another Stags’ error. Another passed ball brought in Quezada and shrunk the lead to 6-4, causing CMS to make another pitching change, bringing in Danny Porras CM ’21.

Facing the new pitcher, Stone singled home Rogan and Hulse, and then advanced to third on two wild pitches. Two more singles, a walk, and an error behind Porras gave the Sagehens an 8-6 lead with the bases loaded.

“In a momentum change like this, where everybody is hitting, you often go up to the plate with a bit more confidence,” Quezada said. “You want to keep the rally going so you do whatever you can to put the ball in play and make the other team make plays.”

CMS, scrambling for a solution after watching their five run lead disappear into thin air, made the third pitching change of the inning and brought in Kwok.

Immediately after the pitching change, the floodgates opened for real, as Quezada knocked a double into right field to clear the bases.

By the end of the inning, the Sagehens had drove home 10 runs, nine of which were unearned, and the Stags had committed three errors as well as a slew of wild pitches and passed balls.

Knapp credited the high-scoring inning to unforced errors by the Stags and persistence by the Sagehens.

“We were all putting the ball in play and fortunately the ball bounced our way a few times,” he said. “We were also able to cycle through a lot of their pitchers in the bullpen and keep wearing them down.”

The Stags gave the Sagehens a scare in the ninth, as they put up three runs and had the tying run on base, but a pitching change by P-P stopped the rally, and Peyton Holm PO ’18 was able to strand two Stags on base to end the game.

With their third defeat of the weekend, CMS fell under .500 for the season. With nine conference games remaining, the Stags are currently in seventh place in SCIAC, but just three games back of making the conference tournament.

“The series was a frustrating one, but it’s over and we cannot change it,” Novogradac said. “It was a great experience for the younger guys on the team. The freshmen and sophomores put together some great at-bats in tough situations and I’m excited to see how we perform in the next three series.”

Meanwhile, the Sagehens moved into a tie with the University of La Verne for second place in the conference. The two teams will meet next weekend in a series that could prove critical for seeding in the SCIAC tournament.

Pericolosi said the team is approaching the big match-up as it would any other.

“The SCIAC is very competitive and balanced this year, every weekend is tough,” he said. “We just have to keep working hard and getting better.”

The final game marked the Sagehens’ sixth consecutive victory over rival CMS. Over the last four years, P-P has gone 10-2 against the Stags.

“To win all three games in dramatic comeback fashion and to do so against our rival gives us some momentum heading into the stretch run of the season,” Knapp said. “We’re happy with the results.”