In the bottom of the ninth inning, Occidental was down one run with two outs and runners on second and third base as the sun began to set over Anderson Field. Antonio Andrade (junior) belted a walk-off home run that gave Occidental’s baseball team the 7–6 victory in their home opener against Willamette University Feb. 7.
Teammate JP Flores (junior) said when Andrade stepped up to the plate, the team could sense he was going to make a big play.
“Right when he hit it, everyone knew it was gone,” Flores said. “Everyone started jumping up and down, everyone on the hill stood up. It was probably one of the more memorable moments in my time here.”
According to Andrade, the pitcher’s decision to throw a fastball gave him the opportunity he needed to swing big.
“The first pitch he threw was a curveball,” Andrade said. “If he would’ve come back with a curveball again, I don’t think I put a very good swing on it, but he decided to throw a fastball. He really just left it over the plate. I knew I didn’t want to get to two strikes, cause it’s a crazy pressure situation and I trust my swing, so I just let it fly.”
Andrade said the early-season home run was encouraging, given that this was only his third career home run as an Occidental Tiger.
“I’ve never been a power hitter in my career — my first home run was last year,” Andrade said. “I was always a smaller guy in little league and high school. I’m just learning how to hit for power, and also getting a little bigger. Hopefully that’s going to contribute to more runs for the team.”
Andrade said connecting with the fastball gave him the confidence of knowing that he can step up in big moments.
“I’m as confident in my swing now as I’ve ever been in my career,” Andrade said. “You try not to think, you try to just trust yourself. You try and not let the moment get too big. It was the biggest swing in my life for sure, pressure, situation-wise.”
According to Flores, Andrade has always had an aptitude for batting.
“He’s all mental. If you watch his at-bats, right when the ball leaves the pitcher’s hands he’s nodding, like, ‘No, that’s not it,’” Flores said.
While size and strength may help with hitting, Andrade said the art of hitting for power bucks that stereotype.
“Hitting home runs, I’m convinced, is a skill,” Andrade said. “People think it’s like, if you’re big and strong you can hit home runs, but getting your A-swing off, catching the ball out front and elevating the baseball — it’s a skill that you have to develop and learn.”
According to Andrade, the team hopes to refine its natural talent into a winning record this spring.
“We want to win the conference tournament,” Andrade said. “Making the playoffs, that’s definitely the expectation. We’re raw for sure, but I think we’re talented enough to do it.”
While getting to play college baseball is fun, Andrade said, the best thing about it is the bonds formed with teammates.
“It’s a close-knit group of guys,” Andrade said. “You take classes with them, you live with them — having that group of friends and teammates who are all also trying to accomplish this one goal of winning a conference championship, it’s priceless.”
LaShauna Porter (senior) was named SCIAC women’s track athlete of the week following Occidental’s home victory over Pomona-Pitzer in their first dual meet of the season Feb. 8. The accolade recognized Porter’s victory in the 100m dash, where she finished with a time of 12.7 seconds.
“It was nice to see that my time was faster than where I was at that point last year,” Porter said. “Also, that meet was my first time sprinting since I injured my knee, so I just wanted to make sure I could actually finish the race and not let the injury scare me in the back of my mind.”
Porter’s first outing of the season came on the heels of an MCL tear during the summer, which she said put her on crutches and necessitated a lengthy rehabilitation process. However, Porter said she was pleased to have run a sub-13 second 100 meter dash, as it means she is on the path to defending her SCIAC championships and qualifying for nationals in both the 100m and 200m races.
“I really want to become All-American in both the 100 and 200, since I was All-American in the 200 my sophomore year, and then the 100 junior year,” Porter said. “I think it would just be cool to have a full circle of being All-American in both my senior year.”
In addition to fine-tuning technical aspects of her race, such as block starts and a lengthened drive phase, Porter said the emphasis of her senior season extends beyond her individual performance.
“Being a good example for the first years is really important, just because I want to help continue our Oxy legacy,” Porter said. “Oxy is known as being one of the really good track teams in SCIAC, so I want to just make sure that even after I leave that we still have a really good program.”
According to Porter, training partner Jada Newkirk (junior) and other members of her relay teams have been integral to her finding her speed in time for competition.
“I always put the relays before I put my individual events, just because you’re not just relying on yourself, there’s other people relying on you,” Porter said. “It’s just like, well, I need to catch up to these girls if they’re ahead of me so she has the best possible chance of winning and crossing the line before everyone else. So it’s just a good motivator.”
Before Porter graduates, she hopes to visit Disneyland and go skydiving in Los Angeles.