Two of the best NAIA baseball teams on the west coast went head to head on Friday in Santa Barbara and traded shutouts on a day where pitching stole the show. In game one, #16 Hope International (24-6, 12-2 GSAC) saw four of their pitchers shutout the Warriors in a 5-0 win.
In game two, a masterful pitching performance headlined a 4-0 win by #7 Westmont (27-3, 16-2 GSAC) to even the series. With two more games to play tomorrow, Westmont retains their current two-game lead over Hope International for first place in the Golden State Athletic Conference.
“Hope is a very good team, and they showed that today,” reflected Westmont head coach Robert Ruiz. “They play the game well in all facets. We knew we were in for a tough matchup.
“Overall, splitting a matchup against a really good team, we’ll take it. Our goal is always to win the weekend, and that’s still on the table after today.”
Game one belonged to Hope starter Seth Hoetker and the Royal’s bullpen. Hoetker and company became the first group in 2022 to shutout the seventh-ranked Warriors, after scattering just three hits across nine scoreless innings.
Hoetker led the way, surrendering just two singles in five and one-third scoreless innings. The junior right-hander struck out four en route to picking up his second win of the season as he set the tone for game one.
Following Hoetker’s exit, Bailey Roberson, Matthew Sagmit, and Raul Herrada followed suit and gave up just one hit to Westmont over the final three and two-thirds innings. The Royal’s defense was flawless behind their pitchers, as the road club retired 10 Warriors via groundout with recording a single error.
Each time the Warriors threatened, Hope’s defense came up with a huge momentum-shifting play, as they ultimately turned a trio of double plays in game one. Westmont could squander just two singles, a double, and four walks en route to being shutout.
Hope International handed freshman Bryan Peck (5-1) the first loss of his collegiate career after tagging the right-hander for five runs in six innings. Hope jumped on Peck early, with the third batter of the day sending a ball to the gap in right center, scoring Hope’s leadoff man from first.
Peck then put up three consecutive zeros from the second through the fourth, buying the Warriors time to get back in the game. However, Westmont’s big hit never came, and the Royal broke things open in the middle innings.
“I thought Peck was good today,” assured Ruiz. “He threw strikes and kept us in the game, but we needed to give him some run support.”
In the fifth, Hope got a pair on a sacrifice fly and an RBI single, and in the sixth, the Royals added another on a solo shot and back-to-back doubles. Following Peck’s departure, Alex Blaszyk went nine up, nine down in three perfect innings of relief.
Unfortunately, Westmont was unable to take advantage of the zeros put up in the late innings, and dropped game one 5-0.
“I have to give credit to their starter,” noted Ruiz. “He took everything that the game was giving him. If the umpire was giving him any room off the plate, he made sure he got every bit there was to offer. He kept us off-balanced and made it tough for us to gain any momentum in that first game.”
In game two, both starters stifled each other’s offense for the first five frames. Westmont’s Eric Oseguera and Hope’s Ryan Lachemann matched each other punch for punch through most of the day, with the game remaining tied at zero through four.
The first threat of the day did not come until the top of the fifth, when the Royal’s cornered Oseguera with one out. With the runner on first in motion, Oseguera induced a sharp groundball that skidded towards Parker O’Neil at third. O’Neil dropped to his knees to snare it, and looked the runner back to third before throwing a strike across the diamond for out number two.
Then, with runners at second and third and two outs, another groundball found O’Neil. Once again, the third baseman gathered and threw a dart to Josh Rego, this time ending the threat.
“The ability to get out of that jam was huge,” pointed out Ruiz. “For Osey to bear down there, that’s championship level baseball against a high-quality team.”
Then, in the bottom of the fifth, Westmont was the beneficiary of baseball’s cruel sense of humor. After Lachemann retired the first two men saw, Finn Snyder prolonged the inning by wearing a ball in the earhole of his helmet.
Following the hit batter, Hope dipped into their bullpen for the first time in game two. The first man out of the bullpen, Sagmit, hit Ryan Desaegher and walked Robbie Haw. Then, head coach Larry Mahoney went to the left-hander Roberson to face Renck with the bases loaded.
Roberson did his job, getting Renck to hit a routine ground ball to second baseman Demitri Calacchio. The ball harmlessly bounced towards Calacchio, who was positioned a foot onto the outfield grass. The second baseman bent down to scoop up the baseball, and then, the third base dugout erupted as the ball trickled through the legs of Calacchio and rolled into right field.
Two runs scored immediately, and then, as Haw darted for third, the relay from the right fielder skipped by the third baseman, allowing Haw to scurry home. After being held scoreless for the first 13 and two-thirds innings on Friday, two errors allowed Westmont to get up off the mat and take a 3-0 lead.
“Overall, there was pretty clean baseball played today,” began Ruiz, “and one mistake opened the door for us in game two. Osey threw a shutout and we did score another run later on, but taking advantage of that opportunity might have been the difference.”
After being given a three-run cushion, Oseguera returned for the sixth and retired three Royals in order. Then, in the bottom of the inning, Thomas Rudinsky and Rego added to the club’s run total by doubling in consecutive at bats to open the inning.
Following the final out of the sixth, Oseguera waltzed out of the dugout and back to the mound, looking to finish what he started. It took only eight pitches in the sixth, and 65 pitches in total for Oseguera to complete the finest game of his collegiate career, a complete game shutout against Hope International.
“Osey was absolutely fantastic today,” said Ruiz. “I have to give him credit. We talk leading from the front, and today he showed what it means to take charge as a leader. It wasn’t an easy 65 pitches. He was competing in a 0-0 ballgame for 90 percent of that game against a really good team.”
The clubs return to action at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow, when Bradley Heacock will throw the first pitch of a Saturday doubleheader. Links to live coverage are available on the Westmont Athletics website.
“I have to give credit to our guys; they found a way to stay in the fight. We didn’t play our best baseball offensively, but we were really good on the mound. We’re a better offense than we showed today, but I don’t want to take anything away from Hope. They executed a plan well.
“Hope’s a talented and well-coached team, and we’ll have to come out ready for them tomorrow. I thought we came out a little flat today, but we’ll address that and come out tomorrow ready to play the game a little bit faster.”
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.