Photo by Nhi Casey
PASADENA, Calif. (Feb. 14, 2016) – Sophomore Chris McCarren (Kenilworth, Ill. / North Shore Country Day) and senior Daniel Chou (Blue Bell, Pa. / Wissahickon) racked up five hits apiece as Caltech baseball split with La Sierra University on Opening Day Sunday afternoon.
Caltech 6, La Sierra 7
The Golden Eagles got off to an inauspicious start in Game One as junior Kai Kirk (San Jose, Calif. / Wesleyan Univ.) set La Sierra down in order before the Beavers jumped in front on a double by freshman Connor Moffat (Charleston, W.Va. / George Washington) that scored Chou. La Sierra responded immediately, however, as a pair of unearned runs crossed the plate in the top of the second inning. Caltech would tie the game back up at 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning with an RBI single from sophomore David Watson (Windsor, Colo. / Windsor) that brought junior Tim Menninger (Norristown, Pa. / Chestnut Hill Acad.), who led off the frame with a walk, home.
Freshman Mark Burleson (Ladera Ranch, Calif. / Tesoro) made a heads-up double play as he snagged a popup bunt and threw down to first erased a leadoff baserunner in the third and Caltech was unlucky not to take advantage in the next half inning as the Beavers loaded the bases with one out before a double play ball ended the frame.
La Sierra loaded the bases with none out in the top of the fourth and went on to plate four to take the 6-2 lead. All three Beavers struck out in the next inning and another 1-2-3 frame quickly had Caltech down to its final six outs in the bottom of the sixth. McCarren led off with a bunt single and came around to score four batters later as Burleson knocked a bases-loaded hit up the middle. The Beavers got another on a sacrifice fly by Watson that plated Moffatt to halve the deficit, but the Golden Eagles regain the breathing room with a sac fly of their own in the top of the seventh
Down to their final three outs, the Beavers string together .a rally that would ultimately come up just short. Kirk drew a leadoff walk and was soon joined on the basepaths by Chou and McCarren via a pair of singles. Moffatt struck a popup to second base that was just inches from becoming a key bloop single, but Caltech plated two soon after on an RBI groundout and balk. Menninger then walked to put runners on first and second with two outs, but La Sierra's Ben Miller sealed the save with a grounder to shortstop to take Game One.
Caltech 9, La Sierra 6
La Sierra got onto the scoreboard first in Game Two as well, with the first three batters reaching base before a double play limited the damage to just two runs. Caltech put runners on the corners with two outs in the bottom of the first but would not score until the second frame, when three Beavers crossed the plate to take the first lead of the day. Kirk led off with a single, advanced on a single a wild pitch, then scored on a sacrifice fly by senior Dylan Schultz (St. Louis, Mo. / Clayton). After a fly out, the top of the order came back to bat and Chou promptly smashed a double down the left field line to bring home the tying run. McCarren followed with an RBI single to plate the go-ahead run, but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.
The Golden Eagles regained the lead in the top of the third inning with a series of walks and steals, but freshman Jonah Krop (Santa Monica, Calif. / Santa Monica) finally settled down in his collegiate debut to allow the Beavers offense a chance to hit their way back into the game. The Caltech bats did just that as another leadoff single by Kirk in the bottom of the fourth turned into a run after a walk, fielder's choice and errant throw to tie the game. The Caltech had been showing signs of really clicking all day and finally exploded in the bottom of the fifth.
Moffatt and sophomore Garrett Levine (Columbus, Ohio / Columbus Acad.) each reached base via single to lead off the frame, but Burleson's sac bunt attempt went for naught as Moffatt was barely tagged out advancing to third. Kirk erased any concerns with a clutch double down the left field line and two walks later, the Beavers had the bases loaded yet again. A wild pitch allowed Kirk to score and the relief pitcher immediately walked the based loaded before being pulled. The visitors looked on their way to escaping without allowing any more damage as Chou struck out swinging, but McCarren struck again with a sharp grounder through the left side that reached the corner of left field, allowing two more runners to score and McCarren to reach second. Moffatt made solid contact in the next at-bat but the centerfield made the catch and Caltech held a five-run lead heading to the sixth inning.
Krop, who had held La Sierra scoreless over the past two innings, including a 1-2-3 fifth, allowed a leadoff single in the sixth but retired the next three batters to hold the margin as Caltech approached the final frame. A leadoff walk, groundout and another walk put runners on first and second with one out, at which point Chou came in from centerfield to take the mound. The veteran gave up a single to load the bases and walked one run home, but got a sac fly for the second out while still holding the three-run edge. A few pitches later, the La Sierra batter flied out to Kirk in centerfield to end the game and give Caltech its first Opening Day victory since 2013, when the Beavers took the second game from Pacifica College.
McCarren slashed an otherworldly .714/.750/.857 and knocked in three RBI while Kirk scored four runs, going 3-for-5 with a walk. Freshman Tucker Reese (Kennett Square, Pa. / Unionville) allowed just one hit and a .125 batting average against with one earned run in three innings of relief in Game One. Six Beavers batted.400 and above on the day, with seven recording an on-base percentage of .429 or better.
Head Coach Matthew Mark and the Beavers open SCIAC play against the University of La Verne (2-2) on Friday, Feb. 19 at 2:30 p.m.