Photo by Noelle Davis
PASADENA (Mar. 4, 2017) – Sophomore Mark Burleson (Ladera Ranch, Calif. / Tesoro) smacked two home runs on consecutive days and junior Chris McCarren (Kenilworth, Ill. / North Shore Country Day) went a perfect 5-for-5 on Friday as Caltech baseball dropped a tightly contested series to Occidental College this weekend.
Five Beavers hit over .300 in double-digit at-bats in Caltech's highest-scoring SCIAC series of the season. Burleson batted .308, tallied five RBI and scored four runs while McCarren slashed .667/.714/.750 to lead the charge.
Friday: Caltech 6, Occidental 10
The Tigers jumped on the hosts early, with back-to-back doubles leading to three runs in the first inning. It took until the third inning before Caltech even threatened, by which time Oxy already held a 5-0 lead. Sophomore Connor Moffatt (Charleston, W.Va. / George Washington) slashed a double down the line to put runners on second and third with just one out, but Oxy's Will Martel came up with two huge strikeouts to snuff out the danger.
Sophomore Jonah Krop (Santa Monica, Calif. / Santa Monica) finally settled in to record a 1-2-3 fourth inning, punctuated by a strikeout of First Team All-American Devon DeRaad. The Beavers managed to get another runner to third with just one away in the bottom of the frame, but stranded him again.
Caltech finally got on the board in a wildly unconventional sixth inning. Things began inconspicuously enough with a leadoff double by McCarren, but quickly got interesting when a throwing error put men on the corners with no outs. Junior David Watson (Windsor, Colo. / Windsor) slapped a single up the middle to plate one and the bases were loaded soon after via a walk. Martel then snagged a chopper and went home with it to get the lead runner, only for the catcher to drop the throw as another run scored, still without a single out recorded.
That changed immediately as a double play completely changed the situation and left men on second and third. Martel promptly allowed another run to score on a wild pitch, followed by another double by Moffatt and capped by a two-run shot to left field by Burleson to take the lead, 6-5. The unusual inning ended with a runner caught stealing.
The Tigers had a response, however, as the Beavers went to the bullpen. A leadoff triple set the tone for what would be a three-run inning which could have been worse, with the bases loaded and none out before junior Garrett Levine (Columbus, Ohio / Columbus Acad.) came in to put out the fire. He got three groundouts to limit the damage to just two runs, including one on a passed ball, and went on to surrender just two runs on three hits with two punch outs over three innings.
The Beavers out-hit the Tigers, 13-11, including four individual multi-hit performances, but stranded 10 base runners and committed four errors to give Oxy the upper hand.
Saturday Game 1: Caltech 2, Occidental 6
Saturday began with both pitchers retiring the side in order and it wasn't until the bottom of the third inning that either team even managed to get a runner into scoring position. Oxy jumped on the board first with a two-RBI single and three-run homer, then held the advantage with relative ease over the next four frames as Caltech could only muster four hits over the first seven innings.
Moffatt finally got something going with a one-out walk in the top of the eighth and moved up to second on a Burleson single. After a strikeout, Levine came to the plate with two away and smacked a double to centerfield, plating both for what would be the Beavers' only two runs.
Senior Kai Kirk (San Jose, Calif. / Wesleyan Univ.) pitched nearly lights-out with the exception of that third inning as he struck out five while walking just one and allowing eight hits over seven innings of work.
Game 2: Caltech 4, Occidental 14 (8 inn.)
The series finale proved to be the most tense of all as Burleson staked the Beavers to a first-inning lead with a two-run bomb to score Moffatt. Freshman Cortland Perry (New York, N.Y. / The Dalton School) unfortunately took some time to loosen up on the mound after playing both previous games at second base, hitting the first batter he faced and giving up a double to DeRaad to put both in scoring position with no outs. An error allowed one run to score, but the rookie recorded his first out on a sacrifice bunt and locked in from there, getting a strikeout and lineout to get out of trouble.
Luck was not on the Beavers' side as they hit into back-to-back inning-ending double plays in the second and third frames. Oxy capitalized with a two-run shot by DeRaad to take the lead in the bottom of the third, but once again Perry stepped up in the clutch to record consecutive strikeouts, halting any momentum for the hosts.
Caltech looked to be on the verge of regaining the lead with men reaching first and third in the top of the fourth, but Levine was tagged at second trying to stretch out a double and neither of the next two batters could get the ball in play to score McCarren, fouling and striking out.
The Tigers came up with an insurance run in the fourth on a throwing error trying to field a bunt, but Caltech bounced back in the top of the fifth with two runs to tie the game. Kirk singled, advanced to second on a balk and moved over to third on a deep lineout, then scored on a single by Burleson. Perry moved his catcher to second with a push single through the right side and McCarren brought him around to score on a single up the middle, knotting the game at 4-4.
Perry stepped back onto the mound with singular focus, promptly striking out the next two batters looking and getting a groundout in short order. Watson led off the sixth with a single, but the Beavers were kept off the board thanks to a pop-up bunt and double play. That window proved to be all Oxy needed as the hosts plated four runs without an extra base hit in the bottom of the inning, although none were earned. Another double play in the eighth put an end to Caltech's hopes of fending off the run-rule, with Oxy scoring again in the seventh and five more in the eighth to end the game early.
Perry struck out seven hitters over six innings, earning a quality start with just three of his eight runs allowed charged to his ERA. He, Burleson, Kirk and McCarren all recorded multi-hit efforts as the Beavers could not convert a mere one-hit deficit, smacking 12 to the Tigers' 13.
Head Coach Matthew Mark and the Beavers now enter their bye week from SCIAC play, instead hosting Southern Vermont College (2-2) on Monday, Mar. 13 at 12 p.m.