MONTECITO, Calif. -
For the first time in program history, Westmont Baseball (44-11) is one win away from winning an NAIA Opening Round Tournament and advancing to the NAIA World Series. Today, the top-seeded Warriors defeated the second-seeded Grenadiers of Indiana Southeast (40-14) by a score of 9-3 to advance to the tournament's first championship game tomorrow afternoon.
Tomorrow morning, IU Southeast and Antelope Valley (38-12), will face off in an elimination game at 11:00 a.m. The survivor will advance to tomorrow afternoon's game with Westmont. First pitch in the second game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
"I am proud of the way they played today," said Westmont head coach Robert Ruiz. "We played Warrior baseball. We didn't let the game or the situation get big on us. We stayed focused on executing quality baseball plays start to finish.
"I am proud of the way they stayed within our approach and our plan and they competed very well. I thought we stayed poised and composed in tough moments of the game, which allowed us to execute and ultimately helped us win."
Westmont's Eric Oseguera improved his record to 10-2 on the season by pitching the first five innings. The right-hander gave up just one run on eight hits while stranding six Grenadier baserunners. Oseguera struck out three and walked two.
"Just as proud as I was of Peck yesterday, I am equally as proud of Ose today," noted Ruiz. "He is a leader and a competitor. He showed up and had to pitch against one of the most potent offenses we have seen this year. One through nine, those guys are a threat. He was fantastic. He gave us everything he had and sold out to give our team a chance to win. He made a lot of big pitches in big moments.
"Yesterday, everybody was talking about the wins record. I thought it was pretty special that number 44 got win number 44 for us today. He got that game ball for our team."
Oseguera pitched out of jams in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings, to keep his team in contention.
Carlos Moreno pitched the next three innings for the Warriors, allowing two runs on three hits. He struck out five and walked one.
"Los came in and pitched out of a big jam in such a critical moment of that game," reported Ruiz. "Like he has been all year, he was fantastic. We have leaned on him countless times in incredibly difficult moments of the game. He is an unbelievable competitor.
"When you are at this point in the season, and playing the caliber of teams we are playing, you have to accept and come to terms with the fact that it is not always going to be clean and easy. That is what I meant earlier when I said that I was proud of our composure and our poise. That is managing the game. I think mature players do that and I am proud of them for that. We have some young guys that are stepping up in those situations and doing that, which is a hopeful sign for our future."
The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the third. With one away, Brady Renck drove the ball into the right field corner, then sped around the bases for a triple. When Simon Reid hit a ground ball to second base, Renck scored to give Westmont an early 1-0 lead.
In the top of the fourth, however, the Grenadiers tied the game with back-to-back-to-back singles by Marco Romero, Ben Berenda and Brandon Boxer. Further damage was avoided when John Ullom popped up to Reid at home plate and Trevor MacDonald grounded out to Renck at second.
In the bottom of the fifth, Westmont started to put some distance between themselves and IU Southeast. Renck led off with a single to right. After a meeting with Ruiz and Reid, who was do up next, Renck took off for second base. Instead of throwing to the plate, Hunter Kloke, the Grenadier pitcher, stepped off the rubber and fired to first base. Renck kept on dashing to second and beat the relay throw and the tag – stealing a base without a pitch to the plate. Then, Reid concluded the at-bat with a monster shot to right field for a two-RBI home run.
That brought up Thomas Rudinsky who doubled to left field, and then advanced to third when Josh Rego singled to left. A squeeze bunt by Parker O'Neil allowed Rudinsky to score from third, making the score 4-1 in favor of the home team.
In the top of the sixth, Oseguera walked Berenda, then gave up a single to Boxer, giving the Grenadiers men at first and second with no outs. That's when Oseguera yielded the mound to Moreno. After striking out Derek Wagner, Moreno walked MacDonald to load the bases with one away. He then coaxed Daunte DeCello into an inning-ending double play on a ground ball to Robbie Haw at short.
Up 4-1 going into the bottom of the seventh, Westmont added three more runs. Reid led off and was hit by a pitch. With Jeremiah Canada serving as a courtesy runner for Reid, Rudinsky singled to left field, advancing Canada to second.
When Rego hit a fly out to deep right field, both Canada and Rudinsky advanced on base. One out later, Justin Rodriguez drove a two-RBI single to right and advanced to second on the throw. Paul Mezurashi followed Rodriguez and provided an RBI-single, making the score 7-1.
"The thing I love about this year's line-up is that on any given day it is a different two or three guys that come up in a big moment and have a big hit," expressed Ruiz. "Brady and Simon certainly had a couple of those today. Justin Rodriguez had a big two-RBI at-bat. Parker executed an important bunt in the middle of that game to give us a little bit of a bigger margin.
"The offense stayed competitive. The guy we faced today is a fantastic pitcher. We knew we were going to be in for it with him. We worked hard and his pitch count got up pretty quickly. That is a testament of having tough at-bats, one through nine. That gave us a chance to get to their bullpen. I am proud of the way those guys fought start to finish."
IU Southeast closed the gap in the top of the eighth with a two-RBI double by DeCello that made the score 7-3. However, in the bottom of the eighth, Brady Renck pounded the ball over the 35-foot high right field netting to restore Westmont's six-run advantage (9-3) with a two-RBI home run, his team-leading 14th of the year.
In the top of the ninth, freshman right-hander Zach Yates was asked to put the game to bed. He came out and retired all three batters he faced on just six pitches.
As the only team without a loss in the double-elimination tournament, Westmont can clinch the tournament championship with a win in tomorrow afternoon's game. Should the Warriors' opponent prevail then both teams would have one loss and would meet again on Thursday at noon in a second championship game to decide who will advance next week to the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho.
(Article courtesy of Westmont Athletics)