THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (Mar. 30, 2019) – The Caltech Baseball team made history once again this year, this time scoring perhaps the biggest victory since the program's formative years nearly a century ago.
The Beavers handled the 10th-ranked team in Division III, California Lutheran University, on Saturday in the third game of this weekend's three-game series. The triumph is the baseball team's highest-ranked win ever and its first over the Kingsmen since 1963. Additionally, Cal Lutheran came into Saturday's game less than two years removed from winning the Division III National Championship in 2017 and as the SCIAC's top-ranked team one-third of the way through this year's conference schedule.
Friday: Cal Lutheran 13, Caltech 3
While a sub-par ninth inning ultimately undid the Beavers in Friday's series opener in Pasadena, Caltech found itself able to contend with Cal Lutheran largely due to the work of senior starting pitcher Jonah Krop (Santa Monica, Calif. / Santa Monica) on the mound. Krop's stuff proved to be as good as it has been all season, striking out nine Kingsmen over eight innings, bringing his K/9 back to an even nine on the season. Additionally, the senior scattered eight hits across as many innings against the SCIAC front-runners and his strikeout ability helped him out of multiple jams. One such instance came in the second inning, when Krop accrued all three of his outs on strikeouts, the last of which happened with one runner in scoring position. The Caltech bats had a harder time against one of Cal Lutheran's top lefties, but both sophomore Mitchell Watson (Windsor, Colo. / Windsor) and freshman Max Popken (Westport, Conn. / Staples) each had a pair of hits and one RBI apiece. Watson had Caltech's only extra-base hit of the day, a hard-hit double in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Saturday Game 1: Cal Lutheran 21, Caltech 3
The Beavers never got out of the gate in the first of two games in Thousand Oaks on Saturday. The Kingsmen jumped on the visitors with big run totals in the fourth and fifth innings. Six different Beavers picked up hits and Popken knocked a two-RBI single for the highlight of the day in the sixth inning, building on his solid showing at the plate on Friday.
Saturday Game 2: Caltech 8, Cal Lutheran 1
The visitors stunned the Kingsmen in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader, and the historic win started with another superb performance on the mound. Freshman right-handed pitcher Ryan Ruscansky (Annandale, N.J. / North Hunterdon) dazzled with 6.1 scoreless innings for a quality start and utilized his control to hold the home team to just five baserunners over that span. The freshman, who pitched well enough to earn his first-career victory in a Caltech uniform, also whiffed six batters for a career-high single-game strikeout rate and his ability to locate the strike zone gave the offense enough breathing room to make the most of its opportunities later in the contest.
Caltech drew first blood in the top of the fourth, when a Popken single through the left side brought in junior Cortland Perry (New York, N.Y. / The Dalton School). Freshman Dawson Beutler (Omaha, Neb. / Millard West) followed up with a great hustle play, beating the throw from the third baseman on an infield single to load the bases for senior Connor Moffatt (Charleston, W.Va. / George Washington). With just one out on the board, Moffatt hit into a fielder's choice and managed to score Watson from third. With Ruscansky and the Caltech defense in cruise control, the Beavers tacked on three more runs in the sixth inning. Popken and Beutler cracked back-to-back triples, totaling a pair of runs before Moffatt's sac fly brought Beutler home for the third run. Three more runs fell for Caltech in the eighth inning. Pinch hitter Spiro Stameson (Newport Beach, Calif. / Newport Harbor) started the run with a single into right field, bringing home Beutler for the second time in the game. Freshman William Cook (El Segundo, Calif. / Windward School) followed up with an RBI-single of his own, and Perry drew his second bases-loaded walk of the week for the visitors' final run of the game (Perry also drew an RBI walk against New Rochelle on Monday).
Perry took over on the mound for Ruscansky mid-way through the sixth inning with five runs of offense in his back pocket. Throughout the game's final 2.2 innings, Perry allowed just two baserunners, struck out two Kingsmen and picked up the final out of the game on a lineout to Popken at the keystone.
Head Coach Kevin Whitehead and the Beavers will begin their next SCIAC series on Friday, Apr. 5 at 3 p.m. when they host the University of Redlands for the first of a three-game weekend series.