They made him wait a little bit, but eventually the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps baseball team (10-22, 6-15 SCIAC) was able to make history and earn coach Randy Town his 500th career victory. The team got the job done by saving their best play for last and winning the third game of their series 9-6 against the University of Redlands (13-21, 12-12 SCIAC) on Saturday, April 12.
“The most meaningful part about the 500 wins is the relationships gained from the competition,” Town said. “The many friendships over time have made the journey worthwhile—the total wins just represent longevity.”
The milestone was a big one for Town, and all of his players were glad to be a part of the historic achievement. One of the team’s key players in the series, outfielder John Rizzo CM ’15—who also won the inaugural SCIAC Take a Swing at Cancer Home Run Derby on Sunday, April 7—had only good things to say about his coach.
“It is an amazing accomplishment for him, and we were all happy to be a part of it,” he said.
Unfortunately for the Stags, the first two games of the series did not go quite as well for CMS as the final game. After CMS lost their first game 10-1 on Friday, April 11, Redlands pitcher Josh Makler no-hit the Stag offense in the first game on Saturday, and the Stags again fell to the Bulldogs 8-0. The only Stags who were able to get on base were shortstop Scott Witte CM ’14 and his brother, second baseman Jack Witte CM ’16, who both walked twice.
“He was hitting all of his spots and was able to get bad contact and strike some guys out,” Rizzo said. “We hit some balls hard in that game, they just happened to be right at people.”
However, it all turned around in the third game as the CMS offense rallied and carried the team to a 9-6 victory over Redlands. Heading into the fourth inning, the Stags were down 4-0, but that was when they made their move.
First baseman Jackson Umberger CM ’16 started off the inning with a triple, and then Rizzo drove him in from third and took advantage of a Redlands miscue in the outfield to reach third after an initial single. Catcher Yoni Hendel CM ’14 kept the momentum going by scoring Rizzo on a sacrifice fly.
“Going into the second game, we were playing with a chip on our shoulder and wanted to prove that we were a good team too,” Rizzo said. “Coach Town switched up the lineup a little bit to try to get something going, and it paid off.”
The Stag offense was far from done, however, as CMS continued to do some damage in the fifth. Umberger again came through in the clutch by smacking a double to right field to score Jack Witte. Rizzo followed that up with an RBI single and Hendel hit another sacrifice fly to score another run, tying the game 5-5.
When Rizzo came up to bat in the top of the seventh, the Stags were down 6-5, but he changed that with one swing of the bat, launching a home run to tie the game again.
“It was a tight game at that point, and I was just trying to hit the ball hard somewhere and put a spark in our team to shift the momentum back on our side,” Rizzo said. “I have been working a lot on hitting off speeds and was looking for a breaking pitch to sit on and drive. Last weekend’s Home Run Derby also gave me some confidence with my swing, which I took into the game.”
After that, the Stags decided they had had enough of the close game and took control by scoring three more runs in the eighth, thanks to some timely hitting by Mackenzie Menthen CM ’16. The sophomore came to the plate with Scott Witte on second and Michael Gose CM ’15 on first, and brought them both home with a three-run home run, bringing the score to 9-6 in favor of the Stags.
On the mound, Sam Woodman HM ’16 started the game for CMS, then Andor Kesselman CM ’14 came on in relief and pitched three shutout innings. Scott Witte, who is normally the team’s starting shortstop, came in and closed the game out with a key save.
“Woodman came out and pitched a great game and kept us alive,” Rizzo said. “And when Menthen hit the HR to put us ahead, we knew it was our game to win.”
While every Stag batter enjoyed a resurgence in the second game, Gose lead the way with a team-high four hits.
“I was just trying to be aggressive on fastballs early in the count and not chase after the pitcher’s pitch,” Gose said.
Next week, CMS will play its final series of the regular season against the California Institute of Technology (0-20, 1-26 SCIAC). Caltech has not won a SCIAC game since 1988. The series will kick off with a game at Caltech at 3 p.m. today, April 18.