It had been more than three years since the Westmont baseball team (30-5, 18-4) played against Golden State Athletic Conference opponent Ottawa of Arizona (14-19, 6-11). The last time the two teams faced each other was on March 2-3, 2019.
In 2020, the season was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic before the two teams could play. Last year, the teams were in separate divisions of the GSAC standings, an accommodation to the continuing pandemic.
On Friday, the Warriors and Spirit renewed their rivalry by splitting a doubleheader. OUAZ won the first game 6-5 with Westmont taking the second by a score of 3-0.
“We didn’t play the game as well as we are capable of,” acknowledged Westmont Head Coach Robert Ruiz. “We had missed offensive opportunities in the first game, and we didn’t make enough adjustments. When things were being given to us, we weren’t taking what the game gave us. When we have done that, we have done well. When we refuse to do it, we struggle.”
In the early game, Ottawa initiated the scoring with a single run in the top of the third. The Spirit’s Nicholas Lustig singled to right center to lead off the inning and one out later advanced to second on a wild pitch. When Adrian Salazar singled through the right side, Lustig took third. A ground ball to second by Nathan Tarver could have ended the inning in a double play, but the relay pulled first baseman Josh Rego off the bag as Lustig scored from third.
Westmont tied the game at one in the bottom of the fourth after Simon Reid led off with a double to right center that bounced off the wall. Center fielder TD Walker made a good play off the wall and threw a bullet to second, but Reid slid under the tag.
Thomas Rudinsky hit a grounder to the right of second base that Lustig nabbed on a diving play, then threw out Rudinsky at first. Reid, with a substantial lead-off at second, easily took third on the play. Rego then came to the plate and hit a hard line drive that ricochet off the pitcher’s glove and continued into center field allowing Reid to scamper home.
In the top of the fifth, OUAZ plated four runs to take a 5-1 lead. With one out and two on, Salazar singled to left field, driving in Brian Camacho and sending Lustig to second.
A wild pitch allowed both runners to advance before Tarver’s sacrifice fly to left brought Lustig home. Casey downs completed the Spirit’s scoring in the inning with a towering two-run home run down the right field line.
Westmont earned one run back in the bottom of the fifth to pull within three (5-2). With one away, Ryan Desaegher tripled to left center field. One out later, he scored on a wild pitch.
A solo home run by Josh Rego in the bottom of the sixth made it a 5-3 game. Rego drove a line drive over the Warrior logo in right center field.
The Spirit added what turned out to be an important insurance run in the top of the seventh. Salazar singled to center field, then advanced to second on a balk, the result of a pick-off attempt. Salazar scored on a single to left by Tarver.
Desaegher got back the run after the seventh inning stretch with a solo shot over the left field fence, making the score 6-4.
Alex Blaszyk entered the game for starter Bryan Peck in the top of the eighth and produced a three-up, three-down inning.
Then Westmont bats produced its fifth one-run inning in a row. After Simon Reid led off with a single to right, he was replaced on the base pads by Dusty Schraeder. One out later, Rego doubled down the right field line to give the Warriors runners at second and third. Schraeder then scored on a groundout to make it a one-run game (6-5).
In the top of the ninth, Westmont held OUAZ scoreless. With one away, Lustig was walked and Carlos Moreno was called upon to finish the game. Before Moreno had finished facing his first batter, the roommate team of Reid and Renck produced the second out of the inning when they caught a Spirit runner stealing second. It was the second time they had done so in the game. Moreno then struck out Ben Lewis for the final out of the inning.
In the bottom of the ninth, Desaegher received a four-pitch, lead-off walk. However, the Warriors were unable to find a way to bring him around to score, resulting in Westmont’s fifth loss of the season.
Peck (5-2) was tagged with the loss after giving up six runs on nine hits in seven innings of work. He struck out two and walked one. Alex Blaszyk worked a scoreless inning and one-third in relief without allowing a hit.
“A few balls bounced through on Peck,” said Ruiz, “but I thought he had a great start for us. Our pitchers gave us a chance to win that game, but lost opportunities on offense were the difference maker.
In the second game, Westmont put up two runs in the bottom of the third to take the early lead. With one away, Desaegher doubled to right field. Haw followed Desaegher with his own double to right, driving in the Warriors’ first run. After Haw advanced to third on a wild pitch, Spirit starter Tyler Bare was relieved by Josiah Dominguez. Another wild pitch allowed Haw to score from third.
“I was happy to see the production out of Ryan in the nine hole today,” said Ruiz of Desaegher’s three extra-base hits. “I thought he kept us in the first game with some big hits. When momentum was fading, he picked us up. He has played a good, solid defensive third base and center field for us. The fact that he is versatile and can move around is awesome to see. Hopefully, he can continue that into tomorrow. “
The Spirit threatened in the top of the fifth, loading the bases with just one out. Gabe Arteage, who came in during the inning to relieve Westmont starter Eric Oseguera struck out Griffin Hagen, the Spirit’s number four hitter.
That brought up Jacob Griffin who worked a 3-1 count. Arteaga threw the next pitch down the middle to create a full count. Griffin swung on the following pitch, but pounded it into the dirt. Rudinsky, pounced from behind the plate and smothered the ball with his glove before it could roll foul. He then gathered the ball and stepped on home for the inning-ending force play.
“That was a heads-up baseball play,” noted Ruiz. “The poise to be able to slow it down, go make a play and then remember he could tag home, was an upper-class, experience play. I was happy to see our guys stay locked in on defense even when they struggled on offense today. We didn’t make an error in either game today.”
Westmont’s lead was extended to 3-0 in the bottom of the fifth when Renck crushed a solo home run over the right center field fence. Renck leads the team with nine home runs on the season.
In the top of the seventh, the Spirit gained a baserunner when TD Walker was hit by a pitch. Carlos Moreno was called upon to relieve Arteaga, making his second appearance of the day on the mound. After walking the first batter, Moreno struck out the next two, then coxed Hagen into flying out to center for the final out. As a result Moreno tallied his fourth save of the year.
“I can’t say enough about him as a competitor,” said Ruiz. “We constantly put him in the toughest situations that we are faced with. His consistency to perform for this team is phenomenal. It may not be easy to see that in a box score, but to see the pressured situations that he competes in week in and week out – I have the utmost respect for his ability to lead our team in the face of any kind of adversity.”
Oseguera extended his GSAC-leading record to 8-0 and his scoreless-inning streak to 11 and one-third. He allowed just three hits, striking out two and walking two.
“In game two, our offense was bailed out by our pitchers battling as hard as they could to preserve a shutout,” Ruiz said. “We need to be better on offense and our guys know that.”
Ron Smith is the sports information director at Westmont College.