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Sports: A Noozhawk Partnership with Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, The Lab, and American Riviera Bank
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Westmont Baseball Drops 1st Game in NAIA Opener

(HATTIESBURG, Miss.) Westmont's first day in the Hattiesburg Bracket of the NAIA Baseball Opening Round Tournament didn't turn out the way the Warriors had envisioned. The second-seeded Warriors fell to the third-seeded Indiana Southeast Grenadiers by a score of 11-1.

As a result, the Warriors will play fourth-seeded Louisiana State Shreveport in an elimination game tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. local time (10:30 a.m. PDT).

"I feel like tonight was not a reflection of who we are as a team," said Westmont head coach Robert Ruiz. "We were a little bit flat on everything. That is certainly not what you want to do in the first game of a tournament. The most important thing is that we have to figure out how to move past it. Tomorrow, we have to bounce back and be a different team.

"It wasn't a focus issue, our guys were ready to play," asserted Ruiz. "We just were not ourselves today. We didn't play to our capacity and tomorrow we need to play like the good team we are."

Grant Gardner took the loss after starting for the Warriors and pitching four and one-third innings. Gardner allowed nine runs (eight earned) on 13 hits. He struck out two and walked two.

Westmont got out of a jam in the top of the first inning. With the bases loaded and one away, Korbin Williams hit a towering pop-up down the right field line in foul territory. Taylor Garcia raced from right and snagged the foul ball. As his momentum was pushing him toward the right-field fence, Garcia torqued his body and fired a strike to catcher Tyler Roper at home. Roper fielded the ball and tagged Richard Rodriguez at the plate for the final out of the inning.

The dugout euphoria over the athletic play would not last long, however, as the Grenadiers would put up four runs in the second, two in the fourth and three in the fifth to take a 9-0 lead.

Westmont's lone run came in the bottom of the fifth inning. Bryce Morrison led off the inning and singled to left field. One out later, Travis Vander Molen singled to center, advancing Morrison to second base. With two away, Roper stepped to the plate and drove the second pitch he saw into right for an RBI-single.

The Warriors had other offensive opportunities, but were unable to push the runs across the plate. Westmont left nine men on base.

"Obviously we made our road difficult," acknowledged Ruiz. "We have to figure out a way to compete through it and it has to start with pitch one tomorrow. As soon as that game ended, we have to walk away from it and be the best version of ourselves tomorrow."

To win the opening round double-elimination tournament, Westmont will need to win five games in row – two on Tuesday, two on Wednesday and one on Thursday.

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