The Pomona-Pitzer baseball team swept the Caltech Beavers this past weekend in three high-scoring affairs—at least on the part of the Sagehens—that helped the team improve their national ranking to 22nd. The sweep makes the Sagehens’ record 22-7 overall and 15-6 in SCIAC, keeping them in second place behind California Lutheran University.
While the Beavers are not one of the strongest programs in SCIAC, they have steadily improved over the last few years. They snapped a 228-game losing streak earlier this year and have competed with many of the SCIAC teams so far this season. With that in mind, the Sagehens approached this series like any other and tried not to put too much weight into who they were playing but instead focused on playing their game and working to improve.
“They told us to just have fun. Go there and still play the game you know how to play,” outfielder Kevin Brice PO ’16 said about the advice he received from the older players on the team who have four years of experience playing Caltech.
The Sagehens certainly came out in the first game ready to play. They scored six runs in the top half of the first inning, using smart, fundamentally sound hitting at the plate to take advantage of mistakes by the Beaver defense. The inning was highlighted by a bases-clearing double by Brice.
Despite the strong start, the P-P bats cooled down a little bit and weren’t able to completely finish off the Beaver’s hopes of winning. Over the next few innings the Beavers kept fighting, but the Sagehen lead was too much, and P-P hung on for the 13-8 win. While a five-run win is nothing to sneeze at, the Sagehens are used to beating the Beavers by double digits and the mercy rule, so it was a little surprising that the Beavers were able to keep it that close to the end.
A similar pattern emerged in the morning game of Saturday’s doubleheader. The Sagehens put up four runs in the first four innings of play, but going into the bottom of the seventh, the score was only 4-2 in favor of the Hens. In the top of the seventh, the Beavers got runners on second and third with no outs and looked poised to tie the game at four. The Sagehen defense came up big when it mattered, however, and Brice threw out a runner at the plate on an attempted sacrifice fly. Starter Stuart Gano PZ ’13 got the next hitter to ground out to first to end the inning and the threat.
“When we were able to keep them from scoring there, that really woke us up, and we realized that we were vulnerable and could go down to these guys,” Brice said after the game. “Once we realized that we were vulnerable, we decided to pour it on. We just had that sense of urgency and competition in us, that sense that we just needed to win this game.” In the bottom of the inning, the Sagehens broke the game wide open and scored eight runs to end the game by mercy rule.
Gano, who has stepped in from the bullpen for some injured starters, picked up his second win of the season with the two-run complete game.
The final game of the series went a little more as expected. P-P got another mercy rule victory, but again only thanks to an offensive outburst in the last inning of the game. Caltech jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning, but the Hens quickly responded and put up eight runs over the first six innings. With the score at 10-4 going into the bottom of the eighth, the Sagehens pushed across four runs in the inning to get the double digit 14-4 win and end the game early. Erik Munzer PZ ’13 scored the walkoff run on a hit by pitch by Jackson Badger PZ ’14 to end the game.
The Sagehens take a brief break from SCIAC play this weekend to face off against the number-two team in the nation, Linfield College. The Hens are approaching the game like any other series and are trying not to let their opponent’s ranking affect them.
“We just have to go out there and play the game that we know how to play, not be blown back by the fact that they are the number-two team in the nation,” Brice said about the team’s attitude going into the weekend.
A strong performance against Linfield will also help the Sagehens’ national standing, which could come into play if they can’t win the end-of-year SCIAC tournament.
Brice made it clear that while their current top-twenty five ranking is a positive sign, it is not their main focus, saying, “It means a lot, but it is not the overall goal. Our goal is to win SCIAC, make a regional, and then win the regional.”
The Sagehens play all three games at home this weekend. Friday’s game starts at 3 p.m., and Saturday’s doubleheader starts at 11 a.m.