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Monday, December 10 , 2018, 11:46 pm | Fair 46º

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Westmont Pitchers Turn Strong Performance in Win Over Hope

A five-run sixth inning and solid pitching performances by sophomore Justin Sanders and senior Lance Simpson resulted in a 6-3 Golden State Athletic Conference victory for Westmont Baseball (16-10, 9-8 GSAC) over Hope International (15-14, 7-11).

Sanders (2-1) allowed three runs on six hits over seven and two-thirds innings to earn the win before turning the ball over to Simpson who collected his sixth save of the year.

"I thought Justin was an incredible competitor today," said Westmont head coach Robert Ruiz. "He doesn't have a whole lot of college starts under his belt, but he's done a good job in every opportunity he has been given. 

"What stood out to me today was that he gave up two runs on four hits in the first inning and we threw someone out at the plate to end the inning. If it were a boxing match, he was knocked to the mat pretty hard in the first round. But he bounced back and competed through those next six innings against a good offense. It shows a lot about his grit and his character."

Sanders coaxed the first two runners into groundouts before giving up a single to Jeff Murray. Brandon Gonzalez followed with a two-run blast over the scoreboard in right-center field to put the Royals up 2-0. After a single by designated hitter John Santospago, Brendan Turcotte drove the ball into right center for a double. Santospago attempted to score on the play, but a solid throw from right fielder Austin Muller and relay by second baseman Michael Stefanic to catcher Tyler Roper retired Santospago for the third out of the inning.

The only other run that Sanders would allow was a solo home run in the fourth that was also off the bat of Gonzalez. 

"Justin was excellent today and he picked our team up. What he did today is a good example of leadership. He stayed focused on the things within his control, he executed pitches when he needed to and he battled through it. He was able to shut that offense down - other than one hitter who was outstanding for them today. Hope International put together competitive at bats, but Justin did a good job executing the plan and put us in a good spot to go win that game."

Leading off the bottom of the second, Muller left a mark on the scoreboard both literally and figuratively. His solo home run ricocheted off the scoreboard to pull the Warriors to within one. It was Muller's second home run and 10th RBI of the season.

With the Warriors down 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Muller drew a lead-off walk on four pitches, driving Royal's starter Shawn Dumser, Jr., from the game. Dylan Hoffman replace him on the mound and walked Travis Vander Molen to give the Warriors runners on first and second with no outs.

Westmont catcher Tyler Roper stepped to the plate and laid a bunt down the third baseline that was fielded by third baseman Frank Garriola. Garriola threw to first base where second baseman Nolan Kraemer was covering. The base umpire ruled Roper out on the sacrifice bunt attempt.

Ruiz, however, asked the base umpire to check with the home plate umpire and after a consultation, the ruling was reversed, loading the sacks with Warriors with no outs.

After Hayden Euper took Roper's place on first base as a courtesy runner, center fielder William Hoyer-Pingle delivered a two-RBI single that scored Muller and Vander Molen and advanced Euper to second. 

With the game tied at two, Hoffman, who would eventually be charged with the loss, turned over the mound duties to Jerald Johnston.

Designated hitter Taylor Garcia executed a sacrifice bunt to move Euper to third and Hoyer-Pingle to second. Shortstop Taylor Bush, then, tripled to left center to send Euper and Hoyer-Pingle home. Bush scored when Stefanic singled down the left field line, giving Westmont a 6-3 lead.

"Early in that game, we were pressing offensively and trying so hard to force things," assessed Ruiz. "We were fine when we didn't have guys in scoring position, but as soon as there was perceived pressure, we tried to force things and make things happen. Most offenses in the game of baseball aren't going to work well when you try to force things. 

"We hit a point in that game where we decided we were going to change the approach, relax a little bit as an offense and going to just see the ball and let things come to us. Some good at bats were put together and we executed some bunts. I was happy with the way those guys competed in that inning. Pingle and Bush had huge at bats for us. They came to the plate ready to compete."

After Sanders retired the first two batters in the top of the eighth, Frank Garriola singled to center for Hope. That prompted Ruiz to call upon Simpson for a four-out save. 

Simpson gave up a single to Murray to put runners at first and second for the Royals and bring the tying run to the plate in the person of Gonzalez who had already hit two home runs in the game.

"It was one of the most pivotal at bats of the game," said Ruiz. "Lance fell behind 2-0 to him, but was able to get back into the count and then strike him out. We have a lot of respect for Gonzalez who is a really good player. That was a huge out for Lance to record.

"In the ninth, Lance built off the momentum he gained in the eighth and threw all of his pitches for strikes and with good tempo. When Lance is throwing strikes, he gives us a chance to win. He was poised the way he needs to be as a senior. I was happy for his performance today."

Simpson retired the side in order in the top half of the ninth to secure the win for the Warriors.

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