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Eighth Inning’s the Charm for Westmont

Gaustad's pinch-hit, monster double and Skersies' pitching pace Warriors in 10-7 win over Wesleyan.

Erik Gaustad’s pinch-hit, 425-foot, two-run double in the eighth inning and Kellen Skersies’ masterful eight innings of pitching propelled Westmont to a 10-7 victory over Wesleyan (Conn.) on Tuesday at Russ Carr Field.

Tied 6-6 in the bottom of the eighth, Westmont (4-12 overall, 2-11 in Golden State Athletic Conference play) scored four times to take control of the game. Junior left fielder Derek Fugitt (2-for-4, two RBIs, one run) laid down a perfectly executed, one-out bunt single to get things started for the Warriors. Senior shortstop Anthony Martinez (1-for-3, two runs, one RBI) followed with another single, which moved Fugitt to second base.

That’s when head coach Scott Deck decided to send Gaustad to the plate. The senior’s towering shot would have cleared the fence in almost any major-league ballpark, but at Russ Carr Field, it was only enough to put the Warriors up 8-6. Following the blast, freshman third baseman Jordan Bottenfield, whose turn at-bat Gaustad had taken, re-entered the game and took Gaustad’s place at second.

Senior designated hitter Philip Valle then stepped to the plate and doubled down the left field line to score Bottenfield and add to the Warriors’ cushion. Junior second baseman Mark Boujikian drove in the final run on a single to right field. Boujikian went 3-for-5 in the game with one RBI and two runs scored.

Skersies pitched eight innings for the Warriors, giving up six runs, only two of which were earned. The junior retired the side in the first, fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings, and would have done so in the third if not for an error. He struck out seven Cardinals without issuing a walk.

The Warriors scored four unearned runs in the first inning to jump out to a 4-0 lead. After Martinez was walked to lead off the inning, Bottenfield reached on an error that moved Martinez to second. One out later, Boujikian hit the ball back to Cardinals pitcher Eliezer Oberman, who wheeled around to throw the ball to second base. No one was covering the bag, however, and when shortstop Drew Dominguez finally arrived, Oberman one-hopped the ball to him and everyone was safe.

With the bases loaded and one away, freshman first baseman Colten Christianson hit the ball to second base, but it was mishandled by the Cardinals, allowing Martinez and Bottenfield to score, Boujikian to take second and Christianson to arrive safely at first. That brought up catcher Kyle Noe, a freshman from Santa Maria’s St. Joseph High, who doubled to left center to score Boujikian and Christianson.

Wesleyan (1-3) tied the game on a pair of unearned runs in both the second and third innings, but Westmont went up 5-4 when freshman center fielder Terrell Wong scored in the bottom of the fourth. After leading off the inning by reaching on an error by the shortstop, Wong stole both second and third. An out later, Wong scored on Martinez’s ground ball to short.

The Cardinals answered back with two runs in the top of the fifth to take their only lead of the game. Back-to-back singles by center fielder Joe Giaimo and third baseman Brice Kelly set the stage for an RBI single by left fielder Chris Simpson and an RBI-ground out by designated hitter Graham Douds.

The Warriors tied the game in the bottom of the fifth when they produced back-to-back-to-back singles by Boujikian, Christianson and Charles Whitman (2-for-4) followed by a walk to Noe for his third RBI of the game. Scoreless sixth, seventh and top of the eighth innings led to the bottom-of-the-eighth heroics and put Westmont in position to win the game by closing the door in the ninth.

Senior left-hander Brandon Downs, a former Ventura City College and Ventura High star, replaced Skersies on the mound, but found himself in trouble right away. Second baseman Julian Sonnenfeld’s bloop single to center and an infield single by pinch hitter Garrett Lamborn were followed by a walk to Nick Gonsalves to load the bases with nobody out. Deck called in freshman right-hander Keith Johnson to take over on the mound and get the Warriors out of the jam.

Johnson notched the first out on Dominguez’s ground ball to second base, which allowed Sonnenfeld
to score, then struck out Giaimo. The final out came on Kelly’s come-backer, which bounced off Johnson and was fielded by Martinez, who threw Kelly out at first.

Westmont will host Biola (13-7, 8-6) in a GSAC game at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Ron Smith is Westmont College‘s sports information director.

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