It took 12 innings and three hours, 51 minutes to reach a conclusion, but in the end 18th-ranked Westmont claimed the first game of a three-game Golden State Athletic Conference baseball series with ninth-ranked Vanguard by a score of 8-7.
The Warriors is in first place in the GSAC at 8-2 and is 19-5 overall, while Vanguard is now 5-5 and 17-9.
“I thought we pitched really well,” said Westmont’s head coach Tyler LaTorre. “We pitched well enough for us to win the game in nine. However, for us to go into extra innings and to hold a really good offensive team scoreless means the pitchers did their jobs.”
Though he did not figure in the decision, sophomore right-hander Bryan Peck gave Westmont seven solid innings allowing two runs on four hits. Peck struck out nine and did not issue a walk.
“Peck went out there and did his job like he normally does,” noted La Torre. “I am super proud of him and how he handled his emotions against Vanguard.”
Dane Nakatsuka led off the game for the Lions by hitting a solo home run to right center on the first pitch of the game.
However, Westmont responded in the bottom half of the opening frame with a run of its own. Brady Renck reached on a single to center with one away. Then with two outs, Ryan DeSaegher walked. After Renck advanced to third on a wild pitch, Parker O’Neil singled to right field, driving in Renck.
After both sides were retired in order in the second, Nakatsuka hit another solo home run to right center in the top of the third, giving Vanguard a 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the fourth, Westmont once again tied the game with a single run. Liam Critchett led off for the Warriors and was hit by a pitch. Shane Hofstadler and Trey Dunn were each walked to load the bases. Critchett then scored on a ground out by Justin Rodriguez who was pinch hitting.
The Warriors took their first lead of the game in the bottom of the sixth inning when they plated three runs. O’Neil’s lead-off single to right was followed by an infield single by Fynn Snyder, who was pinch hitting for Critchett.
With runners on first and second, Hofstadler doubled down the left field line, driving in O’Neil and advancing Snyder to second. With Jack Fletcher courtesy running for Hofstadler, Trey Dunn hit a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Snyder and advancing Fletcher to third. Then, Michael Soper stepped to the plate and drove another double down the left field line, bringing home Fletcher.
The Warriors missed another scoring opportunity in the bottom of the seventh when they loaded the bases with no outs. A strike out and a double play resulted in the score remaining at 5-2.
That moved the game into the eighth inning, which lasted for 37 minutes. Gabe Arteaga came on in relief of Peck in the top of the eighth and promptly gave up a lead-off solo home run to Fred Buckson. After the Lions loaded the bases, Arteaga got Adam Stevens to strike out for the first out of the inning. Then he coaxed Oscar Diaz into grounding to second in what looked like it would produce an inning-ending double play. Unfortunately, a Warrior error allowed another run to score, making it a 5-4 game with the bases still loaded.
Carlos Moreno was called upon to pitch by LaTorre before Antonio Omphroy’s infield single tied the game at five runs apiece. A wild pitch and another error allowed two more runs to score, giving the Lions a 7-5 lead.
“Gabe gave up a few hits,” acknowledged LaTorre. “I thought he threw the ball well, but just had some tough luck on some hits.”
In the bottom of the eighth, Dunn led off with a double down the left field line.
“A lot of teams, after giving up a five spot, would just feel sorry for themselves. We didn’t,” said LaTorre. “It started with a lead-off double, then a hit-by-pitch. Then Brady had a clutch hit against a lefty and then a hard 90 by McFeely that scored the other run to tie the game.”
That made the score 7-7 headed into the ninth, which proved to be scoreless.
The 10th inning saw six men step up to the plate and six men strike out, sending the game into the 11th.
In the top of the 11th, Robbie Haw replaced Moreno on the mound. Moreno had pitched two and two-thirds scoreless innings, allowing one hit, striking out six and walking two. Combined, the four Warrior pitchers struck out 16 Lions.
The 11th inning started with a double by Buckson down the left field line. He reached third on a sacrifice bunt by Emiliano Alarcon. After an intentional walk to Nakatsuka, Tyler Gordon recorded an infield single to load the bases. That brought up Stevens, who lined a shot to Renck. The Warriors’ second baseman snagged the line drive and then chased down Gordon before he could return to first to record an unassisted double play and end the inning.
“Brady is that type of player,” said LaTorre. “He made a crucial error in the eighth inning. He is the type of player that not only wants to play his position, but also wants to make up for the miscue. I was super proud of him for how he responded. It is a testament to who he is as a player and what he means to this program.”
In the top of the 12th, Vanguard threatened again. With a runner on third and one away. Michael Downtain sent a line-drive single into right field. Drew Siedel, running at third, had to hold up to see if Downtain’s hit would be caught. That delay allowed McFeely to field the ball and throw to the plate where Hofstadler made the catch and applied the tag for the second out.
“That is McFeely never giving up,” remarked LaTorre. “He understood that it was going to be a close play to keep the game tied. He made a great throw. He’s been throwing the ball great all year.”
In the bottom of the 12th, Daniel Patterson was due up first. The sophomore data analytics major sized up the situation and drove a ball up the middle for a lead-off single.
“Daniel came in to play shortstop because we were using Haw to pitch,” pointed out LaTorre. “It was huge for us to have a lead-off runner on base. It put pressure on the defense.”
Then Parker Zarbaugh produced a sacrifice bunt, moving Patterson into scoring position at second base. That brought up Hofstadler who sent a 2-1 pitch to the warning track in right-center field for a walk-off double that drove in Zarbaugh.
“To have Zarbaugh lay down a sacrifice bunt after having struck out twice, and then to have Hofstadler stick to an approach and drive the ball to right center, was huge,” expressed LaTorre.
“We would not have been in that situation, if Trey Dunn did not lead off the bottom of the eighth inning with a double when we were down by two runs,” noted LaTorre. “In Moreno and Haw, we felt really good about who we had on the mound at the end of the game. They kept it close and I am glad that we came out with a victory.”
Haw was credited with the win, his first of the season. He pitched two scoreless innings, giving up four hits and an intentional walk.
The two teams will conclude the series Saturday at Russ Carr Field with a doubleheader beginning at 11 a.m.