After enduring a rain-induced postponement on Friday, #6 Westmont Baseball (45-12), finally took the field against #3 Lewis-Clark State (54-5) on Saturday in its first World Series appearance. The two teams, both nicknamed “Warriors”, took the field in front of 3,775 fans, most of whom were cheering for the home team. Unfortunately for the Warriors from Westmont, the hometown fans went home happy with a 9-5 victory by LC State.
“I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to pull that one off,” said Westmont head coach Robert Ruiz. “I am not disappointed at all in the way we played. I thought we played good baseball. A couple of inches here or there on a few of those singles they strung together and it is a totally different ballgame.
“I thought we were disciplined on defense and on the mound. I thought we attacked hitters well all day. I don’t think our pitchers pitched poorly. I thought we got ‘baseballed’ a little bit.
“No discredit to Lewis-Clark State – that is a tough offense and they are going to take advantage of everything they get. I thought they played well, but I thought we battled a really good starting pitcher, put pressure on him and made him throw strikes.
“I thought we had tough at bats and I liked the fact that we came out and scored first. I’m not disappointed in the way we played, but sometimes baseball works like that. You do a lot of things right and things just don’t go your way.”
The game featured a rare occurrence in baseball with two teams meeting in the World Series who also played four months ago on the opening day for both teams. In addition, the same starting pitchers from the opening day match-up started in today’s World Series game – freshman Brian Peck for Westmont and junior Trent Sellers for Lewis-Clark State.
“I thought Peck was outstanding tonight and did what he does,” offered Ruiz. “The inning where some runs were scored, I thought some ground balls just got through. I am proud and impressed the way he stuck to his plan, stayed locked in and focused, had good demeanor, and did his thing. The moment didn’t get too big for him.”
Peck (7-4), who ultimately was charged with the loss, pitched three scoreless innings before giving up a single run in the fourth. For the outing, he pitched five and two-thirds innings, allowing seven runs on 10 hits. He struck out four and walked one.
Westmont got on the board first with a single run in the top of the second. After Thomas Rudinsky led off the inning with a double down the right field line, Josh Rego brought him home with a single to right.
LC State tied the game in the bottom of the fourth when Zach Threlfall drove a sacrifice fly to right to drive in Sam Linscott from third. Linscott had originally reached on a lead-off double off the right-center field fence.
In the bottom of the fifth, LC State put four runs across the plate on five singles, including four in a row by Linscott, Luke White, Justin Mazzone and Threlfall.
In the top of the sixth, Westmont cut into LC State’s lead when Parker O’Neal produced a sacrifice fly to deep center field that allowed Rudinsky to score from third. Rudinsky had walked to lead off the inning, then advanced two more bases on two wild pitches.
Peck started off the fifth and retired the first two batters on ground outs to second base. However, after Riley Way singled up the middle, Aidan Nagle sent a blast over the right-field fence, to make the score 7-2. Gabe Arteaga then came in to pitch in relief and coaxed Linscott to ground out to second.
In the bottom of the seventh, LC State increased its advantage with a lead-off home run by White and an RBI-single up the middle by Charlie Updegrave.
Westmont would add two runs in the eighth and another in the ninth, but it would not be enough to overcome the seven-run differential.
“That tells me we don’t quit,” said Ruiz of his team’s runs in the final two innings. “We are always in the fight no matter what the situation is or who we are playing. That tells you a lot about their grit, determination and character. It is easy to lay down when you are in that moment and say, ‘They got us today.’ We believed that we just needed to get the next guy up and we would have a chance to go win and we played that way.”
Leading off the eighth inning, Rudinsky was hit by a pitch. Rego, then, stepped to the plate and pounded a home run over the batter’s eye in center field for a two-run home run. The Warriors would put two more men on base in the inning, but were unable to bring the potential runs home.
In the bottom of the eighth, Alex Blaszyk came in to relieve Arteaga and needed just seven pitches to retire the side in order.
In the top of the ninth inning, Brady Renck was hit by a pitch, then stole second on the next pitch to give Westmont a man on second with no outs. Simon Reid produced an infield single to short on which Renck advanced to third. The throw to first, however, was offline allowing Reid to take second and Renck to score. This would, however, be the last run of the game.
Westmont will next take on yet another team nicknamed “Warriors” when they face off against #10 Webber International (41-21) out of Florida. Webber International lost earlier in the day to #7 Faulkner (Ala.) (38-15). The match-up is the second of two elimination games scheduled in the 10-team, double-elimination tournament.
Webber International finished fifth in the Sun Conference with a conference mark of 12-12. The Florida-based Warriors received an at-large berth in the NAIA National Championship and were seated third in the Miami Gardens Opening Round Bracket. Webber went 3-1 in Opening Round play defeating top-seeded St. Thomas (Fla.) (41-19) in the championship game by a score of 17-6.
Collin Martin, who is in his third year as head coach of Webber International, has posted a record of 89-56.
“Now we focus on the next game,” said Ruiz. “We need to have a short memory, move on and get our minds right for tomorrow. I have every bit of confidence that our guys will do that.”
Ron Smith is the sports information director at Westmont College.