PASADENA (Feb. 10, 2018) – If Caltech baseball's season-opening series showed anything, it's that sophomore pitcher Grant Messner (Lake Forest, Ill. / Lake Forest) and the Beavers are not playing around.
Messner hurled one of the most impressive pitching performances in recent memory and certainly on the recently renovated North Field in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader against visiting Providence Christian College. Messner was not the only young Beaver to have himself a series. Freshman Mitchell Watson (Windsor, Colo. / Windsor) got in on the fun, first in Friday's season opener when he cranked the first pitch he saw of his Division III baseball career into left center field for Caltech's first home run of the season. He went on to pick up hits in every game of the weekend series and helped the Beavers' offense stake Messner to a two-run lead in Saturday's game. It ended up being all he would need to hurl the shutout.
Game 1: Caltech 6, Providence Christian 5
"Moose" Watson's home run provided the spark the Beavers needed to click on offense and give starter Jonah Krop (Santa Monica, Calif. / Santa Monica) enough run support to earn him Caltech's first victory on the young season. Krop pitched well enough to get the quality start, going six innings and giving up three earned runs with three punchouts. Sophomore outfielder Alex Corado (San Diego, Calif. / Scripps Ranch) provided his team with a legitimate presence at the bottom of the order with a 3-for-3 night at the dish to go along with one RBI. Watson ended up with a second RBI on a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning that scored junior second baseman Connor Moffatt (Charleston, W.Va. / George Washington).
Upon Krop's exit, senior Garrett Levine (Columbus, Ohio / Columbus Academy) moved over from third base to pick up a two-inning save. Levine was the only Caltech player to register a save last season, and like Krop before him, the senior registeered three strikeouts. The Beavers never trailed.
Game 2: Caltech 2, Providence Christian 0
The Grant Messner show came out in full-force in the first game of Saturday's double-header. Making the first start of his career, the sophomore righty made sure not to dissapoint, picking up a complete game shutout of the Sea Beggars, supported by nine strikeouts to go along with just four hits and two walks. Messner had no trouble pounding the strike zone all day and when he did find himself in a jam, the Caltech defense did its job in bailing him out when necessary.
Messner found himself in line for the win after the Beavers' offense came scraped two runs across the board in the third inning. Junior catcher Mark Burleson (Ladera Ranch, Calif. / Tesoro) took a shot to left center field that nearly cleared the fence and instead resulted in a double to score Connor Moffatt, who had a double of his own earlier in the inning. Garrett Levine took the next at-bat and sacrificed Mitchell Watson home with a deep fly ball. Watson would later steal the first base of his career in the fifth inning. Both Watson, along with Moffatt and sophomore outfielder David Adams (Atlanta, Ga. / Holy Innocents' Episcopal School) picked up a pair of hits in the contest.
Game 3: Providence Christian 5, Caltech 4
The most back and fourth game of the three came in the Beavers and Sea Beggars' final meeting on Saturday afternoon. Freshman pitcher Dillon Holder (New York, NY / Horace Mann) took the mound for his regular season debut and some success, particularly when working out of jams. The freshman struck out three batters over five innings, one of which came in the face of visiting runners on second and third base to end the inning. Holder additionally allowed no earned runs. Sophomore lefty Alex Corado relieved Holder for the final four innings and struck out two batters along the way while also not allowing any earned runs.
The Caltech offense provided the young arms with varying degrees of run support and doubled up Providence Christian's hit total (12-6). Mitchell Watson had the Sea Beggars' pitcher figured out from the onset and went a perfect 4-for-4 at the dish with one run and one RBI. In doing so, the freshman ensured that he recorded a hit in every game over the weekend series while batting a scorching .691 to go with a 1.091 slugging percentage.
The Beavers took the lead initially in the second inning when David Adams, who swung a hot bat in the prior game, doubled to left center, scoring Garrett Levine in the process. Caltech had to play catchup late but put together a two-run rally in the seventh inning keyed by a Watson triple to score Connor Moffatt, which eventually resulted in Watson scoring after Mark Burleson hit him home with a sac fly. Trailing by two runs in the bottom of the ninth, the Beavers had the visitors on their heels after Burleson knocked home Moffatt. It ultimately took the Sea Beggars three pitchers in the inning to prevent the Beavers from securing a walk-off win. Still, Caltech came away with a key series win to open the season, which should generate some momentum as the SCIAC schedule looms large.
Head Coach Matthew Mark and the Beavers will open up SCIAC play when they travel to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges on Friday, Feb. 16.