Photo by Charlie Magovern
PASADENA, Calif. (May 3, 2016) – Freshman Mark Burleson (Ladera Ranch, Calif. / Tesoro) tied the Caltech baseball single-season program record for doubles as the Beavers concluded the 2016 season in SCIAC Pool Play against No. 23 Cal Lutheran University on Wednesday, No. 8 Occidental College on Sunday and Whittier College on Tuesday.
Burleson tied the 27-year-old mark shared by Ken Campman and Hall of Honor inductee Jim Hamrick in his penultimate at-bat of the season against Whittier on Tuesday.
Caltech 1, No. 23 Cal Lutheran 11 (7 inn.)
With a busy slate scheduled, Head Coach Matt Mark elected to get a number of his pitchers some work, which led to six different Beavers toeing the rubber. Freshman Jonah Krop (Santa Monica, Calif. / Santa Monica) retired the side in his only inning of work to start the game before the Kingsmen scored two in the second on a bases-loaded single and error. CLU tacked on two more in the third, but junior Kai Kirk (San Jose, Calif. / Wesleyan Univ.) made it through the fourth inning unscathed and then broke up the perfect game with a leadoff walk in the bottom of the frame.
CLU's bats exploded in the fifth as an errant throw extended the inning, allowing three runs to score. Another crossed the plate in the sixth and two more scored in the seventh to shorten the game, although Caltech did manage to plate one in the bottom of the seventh and nearly keep the game going. Freshman Tucker Reese (Kennett Square, Pa. / Unionville), who had come onto the field as a defensive replacement in the top of the frame, smashed a double to left-center to bring home freshman Connor Moffatt (Charleston, W.Va. / George Washington) and advance sophomore Garrett Levine (Columbus, Ohio / Columbus Acad.) to third, but a strikeout and fly out ended the game.
Caltech 1, No. 8 Occidental (8 inn.)
The Tigers jumped out to an early lead on a two-run homer by the nation's second-leading home run hitter, Devon DeRaad. The junior smacked another in the third to sandwich a solo shot by a fellow Tiger in the second and a three-run fourth inning put the hosts up 8-0. The Beavers finally got on the board in the top of the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly by Levine to score Kirk, who had led off with a walk, stolen second base and advanced to third on a balk. Another two-run shot in the seventh put the Tigers within one run of cutting the game short, which they did on a two-out walkoff single in the eighth.
Sophomore Tim Menninger (Norristown, Pa. / Chestnut Hill Acad.) was a perfect 2-for-2 with a walk in the game, while Moffatt was 1-for-2 with two walks and Levine 1-for-3 with the RBI.
Caltech 3, Whittier 8
With Kirk on the mound for the finale game of the season, the Beavers knew they would have several chances to pull ahead. Although a pair of baserunners were erased on an inning-ending pickoff in the first, Kirk had made an incredible play in the top of the inning to erase a Whittier runner, snagging a sharp line drive and flipping to first for the double play. The Poets would score twice in the second following a leadoff single and ground-rule double, but Kirk did well to limit the damage as the runs only scored via a wild pitch and sacrifice fly.
Caltech responded immediately as junior Harrison Jacobs (Tucson, Ariz. / Catalina Foothills) slapped a two-out RBI single up the middle. Both pitchers overcame one-out singles in the third inning before Whittier plated two more in the fourth after a throw over the first baseman's head extended the frame. Once again, a pair of runners were stranded on first and second in the bottom of the fourth and Whittier took advantage of the Beavers' untimely hitting with a four-run outburst in the sixth. Junior Jared Reed (Miami, Fla. / Westminster Christian) got one back for Caltech on an RBI single through the left side to score Burleson after the rookie's historic leadoff double and the Reese brought home senior Daniel Chou (Blue Bell, Pa. / Wissahickon) in the bottom of the ninth, but a lineout double play left ended the game with the bases loaded as Caltech's rally fell short.
Chou, Jacobs and Moffat each recorded three hits in the season finale, with Levine tossing two scoreless innings of one-hit ball in relief.
Mark's squad showed tremendous improvement over recent seasons while Chou joined Burleson in reaching multiple historic achievements. The veteran ends his career as the program's all-time leader in at-bats (460) and games played (137), having started every single one possible over his four years, and was a part of the most wins of any Beaver in the last several decades. As a team, the Beavers significantly bettered nearly every offensive category, improving .052 in batting average and a whopping .132 in on-base plus slugging percentage while scoring 41 more runs, driving in 43 more and tallying 55 more total bases. Nine batters hit better than last year's leader, with 10 clearing a .300 OBP compared to just three last year, while three pitchers recorded sub-10.00 ERAs versus two last year and cut down on walks by 15 while striking out an additional 10 batters. In the field, the Beavers also turned 15 more double plays while fielding at a .013 better clip. Levine ended his second year on another positive note, as he will carry a 16-game on-base streak into 2017.