Photo by Elise Cutts
PASADENA, Calif. (Jan. 29, 2017) – Junior Garrett Levine (Columbus, Ohio / Columbus Acad.) was perfect at the plate and took the mound to record the two-inning save as Caltech baseball opened the season with a doubleheader split vs. La Sierra University on Sunday.
As the first team in Division III to play a game this season, it should have come as no surprise that the Beavers stepped up their game against their NAIA foes in a 7-6 victory. Sophomore Jonah Krop (Santa Monica, Calif. / Santa Monica) got the start for Caltech and showed tremendous growth on the mound as he escaped multiple threatening frames over four innings to secure the win.
Game One: Caltech 7, La Sierra 6
Trouble found Krop quickly in the bottom of the first inning as the Golden Eagles' two-hole hitter lashed a triple into the left-centerfield gap with just one out. The southpaw came up with a huge strikeout in the next at-bat, however, and coaxed an inning-ending groundout to put the Beavers in position to take the lead in the bottom of the frame.
Levine stepped to the plate in a one-out situation with men on the corners and smashed a double that practically landed on the left field line to plate both. Junior David Watson (Windsor, Colo. / Windsor) found himself with a similar setup three batters later and drove in two more to put Caltech on top, 4-0.
Krop again found himself in a jam in the top of the second inning, with runners reaching the corners with one out, but La Sierra ran itself into an out at home on a failed double steal attempt and Krop mustered another big strikeout to post another 0 on the scoreboard. An error in the third allowed a run to score, but Krop ended his day with a 1-2-3 fourth inning, capped with his fourth strikeout. The Beavers padded their lead in the bottom of the fourth, wteith senior Kai Kirk (San Jose, Calif. / Wesleyan Univ.) drawing a leadoff walk, advancing to second on a passed ball, reaching third on a groundout and scoring on a single through the left side by junior Chris McCarren (Kenilworth, Ill. / North Shore Country Day).
The Golden Eagles notched their second run in the top of the fifth, but senior Tim Menninger (Norristown, Pa. / Chestnut Hill Acad.) limited what could have been a disastrous frame. After loading the bases with none out, the veteran snuck a strikeout pitch by the next batter for the first out, then got the runner at home on a groundout for the second. He would walk a run in with the bases still loaded before getting out of the inning, but kept La Sierra from doing any more serious damage.
Watson drove Levine in for a third two-out RBI in the bottom of the frame, but La Sierra finally pushed some runs across the plate in succession, scoring twice before the first out could be recorded in the top of the sixth. Head Coach Matt Mark called on the team's de facto closer each of the last two years in Levine, who got a groundout, lineout and fly out to keep Caltech in front, 6-4.
Levine gave himself what would prove to be an essential three-run margin on a sacrifice fly to plate rookie Cortland Perry (New York, N.Y. / The Dalton School). The seventh inning brought even more pressure than the sixth as two soft singles and an error loaded the bases with no outs, but Levine rose to the occasion with back-to-back looking strikeouts. An infield single in the next at-bat cut the Golden Eagles' deficit to two and Levine hit the next batter to make it a one-run game with two outs. The Caltech dugout went silent as the ball cracked off the next hitter's bat on its way to left field, but Kirk came racing in, dove and raised his glove after the landing to make the game-winning catch official.
Game Two: Caltech 0, La Sierra 14
The Golden Eagles got out to an early lead in the second game and never looked back, scoring in every inning while suffocating the Beavers offense to a mere three hits. La Sierra plated one in the first inning, two in the second and another in the third before exploding for five in the fourth frame. Meanwhile, Two of Caltech's hits came in the first inning, but one was erased on a pickoff and the other came with two outs, leaving him stranded. Perry recorded his second single of the game in the bottom of the third, but that would be the last spurt of offense Caltech mustered other than a walk and stolen base in the bottom of the seventh.
Perry finished his collegiate debut with three hits in six at-bats while sophomores Connor Moffatt (Charleston, W.Va. / George Washington) and Mark Burleson (Ladera Ranch, Calif. / Tesoro) went 3-for-7 and 2-for-4, with the latter also drawing a walk to lead the squad with a .600 on-base-percentage. Levine racked up a .600 slugging percentage driven by a 2-for-2 performance with two runs, three RBI and a double in the opener.
Mark and the Beavers will host a rematch with La Sierra on Sunday, Feb. 5 at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.