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Warriors Split with Vangard, Bid Farewell to Carr Field

Downs and Evans make pitch for their class on Senior Day in 4-1 win. Westmont falls in first, 7-5.

In the final baseball games played at Russ Carr Field before major renovation begins this fall, Westmont split a doubleheader with Vanguard on Saturday, taking the second game, 4-1, after falling in the first 7-5.

Senior pitcher Brandon Downs earned the win for Westmont (9-33 overall, 8-30 in Golden State Athletic Conference play) in game two, pitching six innings in the seven-inning game and giving up just one run on seven hits. Downs struck out three and walked two. Senior John Evans earned a save by pitching the seventh inning. He allowed just one hit and struck out one.

"I wanted to come out on Senior Day and do the best I could. It’s the last time I get to play and I wanted to give everything I had," said Downs, a former Ventura College and Ventura High star. "I was trying to make sure I didn’t get behind hitters and end up walking people. I was trying to get ahead and get them to ground out for me."

Evans expressed similar satisfaction.

"It means a lot to get this win on Senior Day on the last game at Russ Carr Field," he said. "I’m glad to be a part of it. It felt good to be out here on Senior Day and have my parents here."

The pitchers’ duel between Downs and Vanguard pitcher Bryce Reid produced a scoreless tie for the first four innings in the second game. But a lead-off single by Vanguard shortstop Kyle Bondurant led to first baseman Zachary Falk’s sacrifice fly that gave the Lions (17-30, 8-27) a 1-0 lead.

In the bottom half of the fifth, Westmont senior shortstop Anthony Martinez led off and was walked by Reid. Catcher Kyle Noe, a freshman from St. Joseph High in Santa Maria, laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Martinez to second with one away. One out later, sophomore right fielder Charles Whitman drove a monster home run deep over the left field scoreboard to give the Warriors a 2-1 advantage. The bomb was Whitman’s first collegiate homer.

Whitman, a Baltimore native, may have had some extra motivation. His father, Lawrence, had made the trip from Maryland to watch his son play for the first time as a Warrior.

"It was awesome to have my dad here," Whitman said. "He is my hero and it meant the world to me."

Downs thought the hit was awesome, too.

"I was so excited. I don’t think I’ve jumped that high in a long time," Downs said of his reaction to the homer. "The whole dugout jumped up at once. It was awesome."

Following Whitman’s blast, Reid walked Taylor Maddox, prompting Lions head coach Scott Mallernee to make a pitching change and bring in Matthew Curtis. But Curtis struggled on the mound, first throwing the ball in the dirt on a pick-off attempt that moved Maddox to second and then tossing a wild pitch to allow Maddox to move to third. Freshman third baseman Jordan Bottenfield capitalized on the mistakes by scoring Maddox on a single through the left side. First baseman Colten Christianson followed with a single to center, moving Bottenfield to second. Two wild pitches later, Bottenfield crossed the plate for the Warriors’ fourth run.

In the first game, Westmont fell behind early, giving up six runs, two of them unearned, in the first three innings. Despite out-hitting Vanguard, 12-10, Westmont fell short in a comeback attempt. The Warriors picked up two runs in the fifth inning when Bottenfield led off with a single and Christianson followed with a double to right center, giving the Warriors runners at second and third with nobody out. One out later, freshman right fielder Terrell Wong doubled down the left field line to drive in both runners.

The Warriors added another run in the seventh on senior Jonathan White’s RBI single that scored Christianson, who had walked to lead off the inning.

In the eighth inning, Westmont pushed two runs across the plate and threatened to score more. Maddox started the inning with a single to center and then stole second base. Bottenfield’s single moved Maddox to third, giving the Warriors runners at the corners. Christianson sent a ground ball screaming to the left of the second baseman. An outstanding play by the Lions’ Andrew Ramirez retired Christianson at first but allowed Maddox to score and Bottenfield to take second.

Senior designated hitter Cody Chapman reached on an error by the shortstop before Wong hit into a fielder’s choice that retired Bottenfield. Junior second baseman Mark Boujikian stepped to the plate next and singled in Chapman. But with the score now 6-5, the Warriors would leave two men stranded.

Senior Eric Gaustad was assigned the loss after pitching eight and one-third innings. Gaustad allowed seven runs, four earned on nine hits. He fanned eight Lions in his final home appearance while walking just two. Vanguard’s Christopher Carls was the winning pitcher, having given up two runs on six hits in six innings. Jones picked up the save for the Lions.

Between games, Westmont honored seven graduating seniors: Chapman, Downs, Evans, Gaustad, Martinez, White and Philip Valle.

Westmont plays its final game of the season Tuesday at No. 5 Azusa Pacific.

Ron Smith is Westmont College‘s sports information director.

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