A three-run ninth propelled sixth-ranked Westmont Baseball to a 6-3 win over ninth-ranked Vanguard (43-12) in the sixth game of the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament. With the win, Westmont advances to take on #15 Hope International (39-13) at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday. The two teams are the only undefeated teams remaining in the double-elimination tournament.
Vanguard will take on William Jessup in an elimination game Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. The winner of that game will have to turn around and face the loser of the Westmont-Hope International game at 6:00 p.m. in another elimination game.
Bradley Heacock was called upon to start the game for the Warriors in Tuesday’s game. The right-hander pitched five and two-third innings, allowing three runs on seven hits.
“Our pitchers did everything you could have wanted them to do tonight. They were ready and played the game with maturity,” said Westmont head coach Robert Ruiz. “We are only two games into this tournament, but I think our pitchers were fantastic tonight and, obviously, yesterday as well.
“We have thrown three true freshman, a true sophomore and a junior. They are guys we feel are game and battle tested and guys we trust in big situations. Sometimes, I have to stop to remember these guys still have a couple of years ahead of them, which is really encouraging.”
In the bottom of the second, Vanguard had loaded the bases with two away, posing the first significant threat of the game. Heacock, however, convinced Matthew Land to fly out to center for the last out of the inning before any damage could be done.
In the bottom of the third, however, Heacock gave up a lead-off single to Travis Aversa before surrendering a two-run home run to Tommy Rodriguez. Unfazed, Heacock went on to retire the next nine batters that he faced.
“I think Heacock had one of his better starts of the year tonight, facing a really tough lineup and some really good hitters that have done a lot of damage in our conference,” assessed Ruiz. “He kept them to three runs, pitched out of jams and stayed composed – it was a hard fought start out of him.”
In the meantime, the Warriors found their way into enough offensive production to take the lead.
Josh Rego and Patrick O’Neil led off the fifth with back-to-back singles before a sacrifice bunt by Justin Rodriguez moved them over to second and third. One out later, Ryan Desaegher came to the plate and ripped a two-RBI double down the left field line, tying the game at two.
“Ever since Desaegher has been healthy, he has been our opposite-end-of-the-lineup sparkplug,” said Ruiz. “He is one of the most dynamic guys I have ever had in the nine hole. He has come along nicely in the second half of our season. For him to step in and deliver with two outs gave us the momentum back, it put us in the game and changed the trajectory of the night.”
In the sixth, Thomas Rudinsky and Rego provided back-to-back singles and then advanced when O’Neil walked. A sacrifice fly by Rodriguez brought home Rudinsky to give Westmont its first lead of the night (3-2).
“Our hitters made a good, in-game adjustment, switching our approach,” reported Ruiz. “(Vanguard starter Dylan) McDonald was really good against us the last time and was really good again tonight. He kept us off-balance and forced us to work really hard to figure out how to get guys on base. The mid-game adjustment our hitters made started to pay off in the fifth inning, which was a 30-pitch inning. That forced them to go to the bullpen earlier.”
The Warriors’ lead would not last long, however. In the bottom of the sixth, with one away, Dane Nakatsuka drove a sacrifice fly to left, allowing Chad Sutton to score from third. Heacock would be lifted from the game later in the inning, giving way to Zach Yates, who would get the final out by striking out Ian McIntyre.
In the bottom of the seventh, Vanguard had runners on first and second with no outs before Yates struck out two of the next three batters and convinced Johnson to pop up to short to end the threat. The Warrior reliever then retired the side in order in the bottom of the eighth.
“Yates was unreal tonight,” offered Ruiz. “I joked with him when I came out to the mound to take him out that this must have been the one of the best games he has ever pitched – certainly the best game he has pitched this year. The second half of the season, he has almost become a different pitcher. He has developed another pitch and I think it has helped him have an arsenal with which he can get really good hitters out. With that kind of poise in that situation, he gave us a chance to win that game in the ninth.”
Desaegher led off the top of the ninth. The Warriors’ third baseman drove a ball back to the pitcher which the Lions’ hurler knocked down, retrieved and threw to first. The throw, however, was off line and got past the first baseman, allowing Desaegher to advance to second.
Robbie Haw claimed the lead (4-3) for the Warriors when he followed Desaegher by delivering the first pitch he saw down the left field line for an RBI-double. Renck, then, bunted for a single, moving Haw to third. A sacrifice fly by Simon Reid not only extended Westmont’s advantage to 5-3, but also advanced Renck to second. With Rudinsky at the plate, Renck stole third. He then scored the third run of the inning when Rudinsky grounded out to short.
“Brady was unreal in the ninth,” expressed Ruiz. “He created offense. He is a great competitor. He made some aggressive moves on the bases that are risky, but you have to take big chances if you want to win big games. That was awesome out of him.”
Up 6-3, The Warriors sent Yates back on the mound where he coaxed MaIntyre to fly out to right. After Land walked, Ruiz decided to bring in Carlos Moreno to close out the game. On just his fourth pitch, Moreno persuaded Aversa to ground into a double play, thereby securing the win for the Warriors.
“Carlos never gets enough credit,” said Ruiz. “He comes into the hardest situations and makes big pitches. He came in with a runner on first, a three-run lead and the number two hitter up, knowing who was behind them. He makes a big pitch and our defense played solidly behind him to get out of there.”
With the win, Westmont tied a team record of 42 wins in a single season. At 42-9, the 2022 Warriors have posted the best winning percentage in program history (.824).