Even though the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps baseball team dropped two of three games to California Lutheran University on Friday, March 4 and Saturday, March 5, the Stags still presented the No. 1 Kingsmen with stiff competition all weekend. The Stags lost the first two games 9-7 and 5-4, but defeated Cal Lutheran (22-6, 14-4 SCIAC) in the final game on Saturday 6-2, pushing their record to 9-20, 5-13 SCIAC on the season.
“I think it was probably our best weekend of the year,” pitcher Clayton Brock CM ’16 said. “I think we’re definitely improving and seeing progress as the season goes on.”
The Stag offense actually outscored their opponents overall, collecting 17 runs to Cal Lutheran’s 16 over the three games.
“I was pleased with the guys’ play—I felt we outplayed Cal Lutheran in the series,” said coach Randy Town, who earned his 499th career victory with Saturday’s win. “Our starting pitching lasted longer than theirs, and we had 32 hits in the series.”
In the opening game of the series, CMS endured a rough patch early on as Cal Lutheran jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead. But the Stags launched a monster comeback in the sixth inning, unleashing a barrage of singles, starting with two by catcher Evan Opperman CM ’17 and second baseman Michael Herb CM ’14.
Later in the inning, Andrew Burgard CM ’16 and Sam Woodman HM ’16 added singles of their own, and Mackenzie Menthen CM ’16 put an exclamation point on the inning by launching a double to right field to bring two runners home. After the dust settled, the Stags had scored seven runs in the inning and captured a 7-5 lead going into the seventh.
Unfortunately, the lead was short-lived for the Stags, as the Kingsmen scored one run in the bottom of the seventh and three in the eighth to retake the lead and earn the 9-7 victory.
“I felt the weekend went well in the sense that we were ‘in’ every single game, but the fact that we lost two games which we felt we should have won was disappointing because we were playing good baseball,” Jack Witte CM ’16 said.
In the first game on Saturday, CMS again fell into an early hole after surrendering three runs in the first three innings, but they were able to tie it up in the bottom of the fifth with some offense of their own. Woodman doubled down the left field line and was brought home by a single up the middle from Scott Witte CM ’14, who led the team with six hits this series.
It was a good weekend for both Wittes: As the fifth inning continued, Jack Witte made the highlight play of the game for CMS by blasting a two-run homer to right center to tie the game 3-3.
“I was just trying to put a good swing on a pitch early in the count and drive in a run to narrow Cal Lutheran’s lead on us,” Jack Witte said. “I got behind in the count after watching a few pitches get called which I didn’t think I could drive. But with two strikes, the pitcher left a change-up high and over the middle of the plate, and I was able to connect and capitalize on his mistake.”
After the Kingsmen briefly regained the lead in the sixth, an RBI single by third baseman Ray Hurwitz HM ’14 tied the game up at 4-4 in the eighth. Cal Lutheran, however, was not done. The team scored one more in the top of the ninth to gain the 5-4 edge.
Despite the loss, there were positive takeaways from the game. On the mound, Brock provided a huge boost to the Stags by tossing the first complete game of his career.
“For me, it comes down to the cutter,” Brock said. “I just need to throw it for strikes. If I can throw it for strikes, I’m pretty effective. I’m not overpowering, so I try to make guys get themselves out.”
After the two losses, CMS’ luck turned around in the final game of the weekend. The two teams were engaged in a pitcher’s duel until the fifth, when the Stags were able to score the first runs of the game. After that, the Stags were able to plate six runs, including a towering two-run blast by Scott Witte in the bottom of the seventh.
“It was nice to win the third game and close off the weekend with at least one victory because it really showed that we are going to keep playing good baseball and compete despite losing two very close games prior to the last one,” Jack Witte said.
Another key to the game for the Stags was a strong pitching performance by Woodman, who did not give up any runs in his five innings of work.
“I thought both Clayton [Brock] and Sam [Woodman] were outstanding—they were able to manage their command of the zone very well,” Town said. “They also did a very good job getting the leadoff man out [11 times out of 14]. In addition, they were able to get the final out of the inning without allowing Cal Lutheran to score, stranding nine base runners.”
CMS next plays a three-game series against the University of Redlands (11-20, 10-11 SCIAC), starting with a home game today, April 11 at 3 p.m.