Photo: Aimee Messner
PASADENA (May. 4, 2019) – The Caltech baseball team put a bow on a stellar 2019 against first-place Chapman University over the weekend, as the Beavers finished up their best season in over 30 years. While Caltech also had an eight-win season just two years ago, this year the Beavers managed to bag five of their eight wins over five different SCIAC teams a feat the likes of which the team has not seen in decades.
Friday: Chapman 3, Caltech 1
Arguably the strongest pitching performance of the year from freshman right-hander Dawson Beutler (Omaha, Neb. / Millard West) gave Caltech ample time to put runs on the board during the first game of this weekend's series in Orange, but the Panthers responded with a healthy dose of pitching in their own right. Nevertheless, Beutler struck out two Panthers over seven innings of work and surrendered just five hits over that span, even forcing the entire side to ground out in the fifth inning. Freshman right-handed pitcher Max Popken (Westport, Conn. / Staples) came in from second base to relieve Beutler in the eighth and responded with a clean inning of relief. Popken also doubled for the Beavers' lone extra-base hit of the afternoon. Caltech responded to the home team's third run of the game with a run of its own in the seventh inning thanks to some key baserunning from freshman outfielder William Cook (El Segundo, Calif. / Windward School). Cook stole second base following a walk earlier in the inning but ended up coming all the way around from first after a throwing error from the catcher bought him enough time to make the full trip.
Saturday Game 1: Chapman 10, Caltech 0
The first game of Saturday's final doubleheader of the season took on an emotional tone as seniors Mark Burleson (Ladera Ranch, Calif. / Tesoro), Jonah Krop (Santa Monica, Calif. / Santa Monica) and Connor Moffatt (Charleston, W.Va. / George Washington) were all recognized before the game for their extensive contributions to the baseball program over three exceptional four-year careers. Krop, who will go down as arguably the statistically best pitcher to come through Caltech to date, toed the rubber in Game 1 and went five and two-thirds innings while striking out seven Panthers to bring his career record total to 208. Long, tough at-bats from the first-place Panthers ultimately shortened the final start of Krop's career and freshman Pierce Governale (Tampa, Fla. / Berkeley Preparatory School) pitched out the rest of the game. Offensively, the Beavers struggled against SCIAC strikeout leader Tyler Peck, but Moffatt, who drew the start at third base had a nice double into left-center field in the second inning.
Saturday Game 2: Chapman 6, Caltech 2
Caltech led for the first time of the series in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader thanks to a Popken RBI single in the third inning that brought Beutler home from second base. Pitching with the lead, freshman right-hander Ryan Ruscansky (Annandale, N.J. / North Hunterdon) responded with a quality start in which he pitched six innings without issuing a single walk. After the freshman pitched his final inning of the season, the Caltech offense responded by scratching another run across in the sixth. Popken opened the inning with a double into left center, and Moffatt eventually singled through the left side to bring junior outfielder Alex Corado (San Diego, Calif. / Scripps Ranch) home from second base
The Panthers offense came through with a three-run ninth inning to put a dampener on the Beavers' hopes of a comeback, but the home team went out on a high note, with one more competitive game against one of the conference's elite teams. Junior Cortland Perry (New York, N.Y. / The Dalton School) will carry the program's single-season and career doubles record into his senior season, and his 15 doubles in 2019 put him second among SCIAC players.
Head Coach Kevin Whitehead and the Beavers have every reason for optimism heading into 2020. While the loss of senior trio Burleson, Krop and Moffatt will sting to a certain extent, a young core full of impact players all over the diamond should keep Caltech strong as it looks to expand on its SCIAC successes in the future.