Sweep of Oxy Keeps Playoff Hopes Alive

Pomona-Pitzer baseball accomplished exactly what it needed—a sweep of Occidental College—over the April 18-20 weekend to keep its hopes alive for a postseason appearance. The Sagehens also got some help from the rest of the league, as California Lutheran University swept the University of La Verne to push La Verne down into a three-way tie for No. 4 with the University of Redlands and Occidental. All three teams have 12 losses, while P-P is currently in fifth place with 13. If the team can win out their next four games, they have a very strong chance of making a postseason appearance. 

Although the Sagehens were coming off of a tough series sweep by Linfield College, they took their losses as teachable moments and used the experience to put their conference games against Occidental into perspective. 

“I think that when you get challenged by the type of pitching that Linfield brings at you—and it was the best pitching that we had seen all year in a three-game series—everything after that looks a little bit easier,” head coach Frank Pericolosi said. “And Oxy is a very good pitching staff, but after facing Linfield, everything seems like it has a little less velocity, less movement.”

During game one on Friday, April 18, the Sagehens came out of the gate prepared to make a strong showing. Three consecutive RBIs by Simon Rosenbaum PO ’16, Jake Bruml PO ’15, and EJ Lopez PO ’15 brought P-P to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first. Under the careful lead of pitcher Lane Miles PO ’17, who pitched six shutout innings, the Sagehens cruised to a 12-0 mercy-rule win over Occidental. 

The confident and energetic momentum from game one continued into Saturday’s play. Although Occidental took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, Mark Okuma PZ ’15 came through with a three-run home run in the fourth to give P-P a 3-1 lead. Bruml pitched a complete game, giving up just four hits and no earned runs as P-P captured another victory, this time 6-2.

The Sagehens came out strong yet again in the third inning to complete their sweep of the series. Kenny Rabin PO ’15 had a strong offensive performance, going a perfect four-for-four with three runs scored.

According to Bruml, Rabin played a crucial role in picking up runners on base and contributed to the team’s dominance at the plate. With the score at 11-4 going into the bottom of the seventh, Bruml hit a walk-off three-run home run, giving the Sagehens a 14-4 mercy-rule win. 

According to Bruml, the team knew that they still had a chance to make the postseason and used the opportunity to rise to the occasion. 

“Coach P[ericolosi] really challenged us,” Bruml said. “He did the math and we were mathematically still alive, and he challenged us to put together the best seven games possible. We now have four remaining, and as long as there’s a chance, he wasn’t going to give up on us, and he challenged us not to give up on ourselves, and I think we’ve shown that, and now we’re right in the mix of things, so that’s exciting.”

Throughout the season, the team has attributed its struggle to the fact that it has not been able to get all three phases of its game—pitching, hitting, and defense—to work at once. During their games against Occidental, though, the Sagehens finally saw a strong showing in all three phases of the game. 

“It felt good that everything was happening at the right time,” Bruml said. “Our pitching was the best it has been all year, and our hitting was consistent through all three games. It wasn’t like we would show up in the first two innings, then disappear and show up in the late innings. It was consistent. And in fielding, we probably made a season-low number of errors, so it was pretty great.”

The playing field was not the only place that the Sagehens saw productive change. Bruml said that the bench plays a critical role in keeping up team momentum, and over the weekend it had a refreshingly active presence. 

“Everyone was in it—especially the bench—for all three games,” Bruml said. “They were loud, they were energized, they were backing all our players and staying with our team. I think that was a big thing, that there was life in the dugout, and that really helped us and motivated us on the field.”

Coach Pericolosi explained that the series sweep of Occidental was a good confidence boost heading into four games of round robin play. Nevertheless, the team is still focusing on the short term.

“We are approaching it one at a time—you have got to be taking it one at a time,” Pericolosi said. “You can’t look ahead, and you can’t worry about what other people are doing. All we are worrying about right now is having good practices, coming to compete and just bearing down and focusing on the single game. The next one doesn’t matter if you don’t get that first one—we have to lock into that first one.”

The Sagehens began Round Robin SCIAC play with a Wednesday home game against Whittier College, falling 8-6 after the Poets rallied to score three runs in the top of the ninth. P-P next plays the University of La Verne on Saturday, April 26 at 11 a.m.; Chapman University on Sunday, April 27 at 3 p.m.; and the University of Redlands on Tuesday, April 29 at 3 p.m.

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