Author: Tim O’Donnell
The Occidental College baseball team (2-4 overall, 1-2 SCIAC) opened conference play over the weekend with a home-and-away series against Chapman (3-4 overall, 2-1 SCIAC). The Tigers took the first game in Orange, Calif., with a 3-1 victory in 12 innings Friday but dropped both frames of the Saturday doubleheader at Anderson Field. They fell 7-2 in the first game and 4-1 in the second, which was called after eight innings due to darkness.
The Tigers and Panthers participated in a tightly contested affair on Friday, perhaps indicating the type of play that will occur throughout the SCIAC season.
The black and orange broke through first when second baseman Riley Smith (senior) reached on an error that scored first baseman Johnathan Brooks (junior) in the fourth inning.
On the mound, starter Joe Kling (junior) kept Chapman at bay for eight innings before surrendering a game-tying home run to Panther first baseman Mark Saatzer (senior) in the bottom of the ninth.
Despite giving up the big knock, Kling finished the ninth without allowing any further damage, sending the game into extras. He gave up just five hits, one run and one walk while striking out five on the afternoon. Senior David Feasler earned the win, coming on in relief of Kling and tossing three scoreless innings.
Occidental shortstop Walter Marks (first-year) finally broke the tie in the top of the 12th, lacing a double to left field that scored designated hitter Devon DeRaad (first-year). Brooks’ RBI groundout later in the inning added insurance to the lead, securing a 3-1 win for the black and orange.
“We showed our potential in the way that we played on Friday,” Smith said. “Everybody does their job and with wins like Friday; that’s when it comes out. We just need to keep working on that.”
The Tigers seemed to carry their momentum into Saturday, as starting pitcher Mitch Margolis (senior) threw four scoreless frames.
However, he ran into command issues in the fifth, walking two and hitting one. The Panthers took advantage, plating four in the inning.
Chapman put up another crooked number in the top of the seventh with three runs to extend the lead to 7-2, highlighted by second baseman Tim Alhanati’s (sophomore) solo home run off Occidental relief pitcher Will Nahmens (first-year).
The Tigers could not muster much offensively all game against Panther hurlers Will Riddle (sophomore) and Travis McGee (senior), tallying just five hits and striking out 11 times.
The offensive struggles continued into the second game of the twin bill. The black and orange only managed three hits and one run off of Chapman starter Matt Smith (sophomore). Smith struck out seven in 5.2 innings of work.
The Panthers again utilized the solo homer — one apiece from right fielder Forrest Wiederman (first-year) and designated hitter Brandon Demerest (sophomore) — to build their lead.
Despite the round trippers, Occidental starter C.J. Maruyama (sophomore) — who gave up three earned runs through 4.2 innings — and the Tiger bullpen held down the Panthers’ offensive attack and kept the contest within striking distance.
“Our defense is doing a great job, and I’m really proud of our pitching staff,” catcher Victor Munoz (junior) said. “They gave us a chance to win all three games this weekend.”
With the ninth inning still to come in Game Two, mother nature played spoiler for the Tigers. The umpiring crew determined that darkness would make the final inning unplayable, preventing the black and orange from getting one last chance to rally and ending the contest with a final score of 4-1 in favor of the Panthers.
While the Tigers kept all three games close, Chapman’s pitching staff virtually silenced Occidental’s lineup, and the Panthers often resorted to the big inning to get ahead offensively.
Tiger head coach Luke Wetmore, like Munoz, was impressed with the team’s pitching and defense and believes that the bats will begin to come around as the season progresses.
“We look young at the plate,” Wetmore said. “We’ll clean that up, but the lack of confidence is definitely noted. But all in all, we looked good on the mound and phenomenal defensively. As soon as we can clean up the bats, I think we’re going to be in a good place.”
The Tigers host a three-game series against George Fox University this weekend. First pitch is scheduled for Friday at 3 p.m., and a doubleheader will ensue Saturday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
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