Pacific Lutheran Too Much for Stags

Despite the best efforts of outfielder Andrew Burgard CM ’16, who knocked in all of the Stags’ runs in last Saturday’s game, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps baseball team was unable to capture the victory against Pacific Lutheran University on March 29, falling 14-3. After dropping the first game of the series against the Lutes on Friday, March 28, this loss dropped CMS’ record to 8-18 overall and 4-11 in the SCIAC.

“We’ve been really hanging in there in a lot of these games, though,” pitcher Andor Kesselman CM ’14 said. “Saturday was just an exception. We just need to find that extra competitive fire or extra edge to overcome that one run that you need. We’ve been on the wrong side of a lot of one-run games this season, but at least we’ve been in those one-run games.” 

Pacific Lutheran’s pitching staff stymied the Stag offense all game long on Saturday. While CMS was able to accrue eight hits throughout the game, they left many players stranded on base.

“We’re really good at getting guys on base, so we’ll have guys in scoring position, but we can’t capitalize on it and drive runs in,” catcher Evan Opperman CM ’17 said. “Our pitching’s been phenomenal, but we just need to get that key hit. We have too many pop-ups with guys in scoring position, and we’re not able to give our pitchers run support.”

Two of the Stags’ runs came in the second inning when third baseman Matt Orehek CM ’17 drew a walk, first baseman Ray Hurwitz HM ’14 roped a double down the left field line, and Burgard brought them both home with a double through the right side.

The only other run the Stags were able to scratch out was in the fourth inning, when Burgard hit another double to bring catcher Yoni Hendel CM ’14, who had reached on an error, around to score.

“Sometimes, guys will go up there and think they need to hit a home run, but all we need is a single,” Opperman said. “As a team, we can definitely be better than we’re showing; all people need to do is take some pressure off themselves and perform within what they can do.”

Pitcher Clayton Brock CM ’16 took the mound for CMS and had a few hitless innings, but they were spread between a few rough innings for the young right-hander. 

After Brock struggled in the fourth, head coach Randy Town employed seven different pitchers over the remaining five innings, including Kesselman, who gave up one run in two innings.

“With any team, I try to be aggressive and pound the zone; it’s like a chess game,” Kesselman said. “Pitching is all about self-discovery. It’s about knowing yourself and what you can do, and not trying to do too much. The best pitchers know how to work with what they have on their bad days.”

Before losing on Saturday, the Stags also struggled to find success in the first game of the series, suffering an 8-1 loss at the hands, gloves, and bats of the Lutes. Opperman led the team with two hits, including an RBI single in the fourth, but that was all the Stag offense could muster.

Opperman said that hitting is largely a mental game for him.

“In my first at bat, I’ll look for a pitch I can drive, and in my second at bat, I’ll react to that,” he said. “Last Friday, we were going against a good pitcher. He threw a good slider, and I took a bad swing on it and ended up striking out. But in my second at bat, I was sitting on the slider and he threw it to me again and I ended up getting a single.”

In addition, pitcher Chad Hadzinsky CM ’14 had a solid outing for the Stags, only surrendering two earned runs in six innings.

“Our pitching has been really strong—Chad and Clayton have been giving us chances to win games—but our biggest problem is we tend to make errors in really bad spots and it comes back to hurt us,” Opperman said. “Last Friday, we were tied 1-1, but we made a couple of errors and they ended up scoring a couple runs, and we never came back from it.”

CMS’ matchup today at 3 p.m. will be a tough one: The Stags are facing off against California Lutheran University, who is tied atop the SCIAC standings with Whittier College.

Town said that the keys to success for the team will be to “run hard 90s, hustle, and be aggressive on the bases.”

“We want to set the tone with our offense and put pressure on the defense,” he said. “If we can do that, we can be in a position to be successful at the end of games. The guys just have to focus on what they have to do.”

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