Baseball rolls to 8–0 start on the back of stellar pitching and hitting

Nolan McCarthy (junior) winds up for a pitch during practice at Occidental College. Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. Miles Koupal/The Occidental

Occidental’s baseball team took home two wins Feb. 23 in their games against Castleton University at Anderson Field, improving the Tigers’ winning streak this season to 8–0. Starting pitcher Nolan McCarthy (junior) said the Tigers are excited about how this year has started.

“We came out and we took care of business,” McCarthy said. “It wasn’t the prettiest game, but at the end what mattered is that our team came together and got the job done.”

In the first game, the Tigers led 3–0 until Castleton took a 4–3 lead with two runs in the top of the fifth and sixth innings, then Jared Baur (senior) made a big hit for Occidental, driving home two runs with a single in the bottom of the sixth to put the team back in the lead. In their second game, the Tigers trailed 2–1 in the bottom of the eighth, but then they played small ball to rally for four runs by bunting, advancing runners and putting the ball in play. According to head coach Luke Wetmore, pitching and two-strike hitting have been hallmarks of the first eight games.

“Clearly our pitching has been a strength,” Wetmore said. “We’ve seen a lot of success with two-strike hitting, which last year was a weakness for us. We struck out a lot and kind of emphasized it in the offseason and the preseason. The guys have been doing a really good job of batting and trying to find a way to get on base and put pressure on the defense with the bat.”

The Tiger’s pitching has a team ERA of 1.80 this season. McCarthy has a personal ERA of 1.93, with 22 strikeouts over three appearances.

“Pitching is a lot of mental game,” McCarthy said. “Between every pitch, you have like 15–20 seconds to take a breath, think about what you’re going to throw. Think about what your coach wants you to throw. You really need to totally commit to that. There are all kinds of ways to deceive hitters when you’re pitching, to fool them. You don’t want it to be comfortable for them. It takes a lot of focus, and it’s something that I’m still getting better at.”

According to Wetmore, several of the teams the Tigers have played so far are from cold and wet regions, which has been reflected in their preparation.

“We’ve played a few teams where it’s been their first time on the field,” Wetmore said. “Castleton, coming from Vermont, hadn’t much chance to actually play or scrimmage or practice on the field. Whitworth, Willamette and the University of Puget Sound are from the Northwest Conference where it’s been raining and snowing up there, so again, I don’t know what their preparation has been like.”

Angelo Zorn (Sophomore) practices running drills at Occidental College. Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. Miles Koupal/The Occidental

Center fielder Jack Brancheau (senior) from Scottsdale, AZ is hitting .522, has an on-base percentage of .676 and is slugging .870. His streak continued against Castleton with a 5 for 8 day with three RBIs, a home run and a double. Brancheau said Castleton was a competitive team.

“I think they won 30 games last year, so probably the best team we’ve faced so far,” Brancheau said.

According to Brancheau, the Tigers have yet to start conference baseball, which is the main focus of their season.

“It’s going great but we’re still not really into the full swing of things yet,” Brancheau said. “Our goal is to make the SCIAC [Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference] tournament — the top four teams in the conference make it at the end of the year. The winner of that makes the regional tournament. So the ultimate goal would be to get to regionals.”

According to McCarthy, the Tigers missed going on to the SCIAC tournament by just one game the last two years.

“That’s definitely in the back of everyone’s mind,” McCarthy said. “We have aspirations against specific teams like Chapman — we’ve really struggled against them. We’d like to take some games from them this year. Redlands has been really good,” McCarthy said.

According to McCarthy, everyone is putting forth a lot of effort and making big contributions to the team.

“We got a good team,” McCarthy said. “We just want to help each other out — everybody just kind of wants to carry their own weight. Being a pitcher, it’s easy, you’ve got eight guys standing behind you rooting for you, trying to help you out,” McCarthy said.