The Pomona-Pitzer (5-2, 3-0 SCIAC) men’s baseball team knocked rival Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (0-9, 0-3 SCIAC) out of the ballpark Feb. 13-14, sweeping the Stags in a three-game series.
P-P entered the series on the back of a high-octane 19-17 win over the University of Puget Sound (2-5), with its offense beginning to find its feet. CMS, on the other hand, went into the Valentine’s Day matchup having endured a disappointing non-conference slate, which included a four game sweep at the hands of Willamette University (7-0).
The differing confidence levels between the two teams quickly became apparent as game one of the series kicked off at Pomona College. A solo home run from right fielder Mark Okuma PZ ’15 gave the Sagehens the lead in the bottom of the second, an advantage quickly negated by right fielder Trey Smith CM ’18’s homer in the top of the third.
In the bottom of the third, however, P-P began to pull away, with first baseman Simon Rosenbaum PO ’16 notching a three run shot to give the Sagehens a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Rosenbaum again hit an RBI double in the bottom of the fourth, with shortstop Sam Fox PZ ’15 and third baseman E.J. Lopez PZ ’15 notching an RBI each in a five-run inning for P-P. At that point, the result seemed mostly a formality, with a strong pitching effort from Lane Miles PO ’17 frustrating CMS’s own attempts at an offensive rally.
After scoring twice in the bottom of the fifth and once again in the bottom of the sixth, P-P had the game called in their favor in the bottom of the eighth, when a Fox RBI took the score to 13-3, invoking SCIAC’s ten-run mercy rule to secure the default victory.
It was an encouraging offensive performance to start the season, although one that wasn’t entirely unexpected.
“We’re a great offensive team,” Rosenbaum noted. “We’re really deep, and that helps us take some pressure off ourselves because we know we don’t have to do too much and just keep the line moving.”
Meanwhile, Smith conceded that CMS didn’t do enough to stifle the Sagehens.
“We knew from the start that P-P would be able to swing the bat pretty well … but we didn’t think that their balls would find as many holes as they did.”
With the big win under their belts, P-P went into the Saturday doubleheader, played at CMC, with plenty of confidence. The home team did briefly take the lead, but another Sagehen offensive explosion threatened to blow the game wide open in the top of the third as they drove six runs home, including a three-run homer from Okuma off the pitching of Clayton Brock CM ‘16.
A three-run effort in the bottom of the seventh helped CMS close the margin to 5-8. A Smith homer in the bottom of the eighth closed it to a narrow 8-6 margin in the Sagehens’ favor, but P-P held its nerve down the homestretch.
Two runs in the top of the ninth made the lead safer, and pitcher David Gerics PO ’17 retired the last five CMS batters to preserve the save and a win for starting pitcher Cameron Yen PZ ’16.
P-P headed into the nightcap with the series win already secured, while CMS was looking to restore pride and notch its first win of the season. Despite the lessened motivation, the Sagehens absolutely exploded into the match, hitting 11 runs in the first two innings to stun the Stags. Catcher Kevin Jordan PZ ’17 was the protagonist in the first inning after hitting a triple, while second baseman Kenny Rabin PO ’15 hit a three-run double in the top of the second.
It looked as if the Sagehens were headed for a blowout triumph, but CMS had other plans in mind. A seven-run effort in the bottom of the fourth, helped along by a triple from Nick Lillie CM ’17, got the Stags right back in the game.
The home team went on to score five runs across the next three innings around a couple of P-P runs to close the gap to 13-12. An unlikely comeback was on the cards, but a Jordan home run for the Sagehens at the top of the ninth gave the Sagehens breathing room.
Rosenbaum then came on in relief in a slightly unusual move, but one that paid off as he was able to preserve the win for starter Nick Olmanson PO ’18.
“I love to help the team as much as I can, whether that be at the plate, defensively, or on the mound,” Rosenbaum said. “I haven’t had a problem with hitting and pitching, I just try to focus on the moment and compete.”
The emphatic manner of the sweep gave P-P plenty of confidence as they resume conference play starting next weekend against the University of Redlands (5-1, 2-1).
“A different guy can win a game for us each day,” Rosenbaum noted. “That’s what makes me optimistic for this team … We need to continue to trust each other and hit for the guy behind us.”
While a couple of spirited comebacks kept the series from being all bad news, the wait for the first win of the season continues for the Stags, who hope that they don’t dig themselves too deep of a hole as they square off against the University of La Verne (4-3, 3-0 SCIAC) in their next conference series.
Smith, for one, says he believes a turnaround is right around the corner.
“Nobody expected to start the season this slow, but I think our problems just lie within our heads,” he said. “The whole team right now is more hungry than ever for a win and prepared to play a lot better baseball for it.”