After starting off the GSAC Tournament 2-0, #6 Westmont Baseball (42-11), dropped two games on Wednesday and bowed out of the double-elimination tournament. In the morning, Westmont fell to #15 Hope International (40-13) by a score of 12-5 before losing in the evening to William Jessup (28-25) by a score of 17-10.
“It certainly was not the outcome we wanted from this tournament,” acknowledged Westmont head coach Robert Ruiz. “I believe in our guys. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. Being in the middle of our finals this week is tough. We had guys taking finals between games today. While I don’t want to make that an excuse, it is also a reality.”
Against the Royals, Westmont scored a single run in each of the first four innings. However, the Royals matched the score by producing four runs in the second inning, three off a home run by Omar Veloz. In the sixth, Chase Hanson put the Royals up 6-4 with a two-run home run to right field.
Westmont pulled within one run (6-5) in the top of the eighth when Simon Reid singled to left to drive in Brady Renck from third. A six-run bottom of the eighth, however, proved to be more than enough for Hope International to claim the victory.
Westmont left 14 men on base over nine innings, 10 of whom were in scoring position.
In the nightcap, Westmont scored one in the first and two in the second to take a 3-2 lead after two innings of play. Robbie Haw led-off the bottom of the first with a triple for the Warriors before Renck sent a deep ball to center field to bring home Haw on a sacrifice fly. In the second, Ryan Desaegher doubled to right field, driving in Paul Mezurashi and Parker O’Neil.
In the bottom of the third, Westmont stretched its advantage over William Jessup to 4-2 when Josh Rego doubled down the right field line, driving in Renck.
However, Jessup scored three in the fourth, five in the six and another in the seventh to go up 11-4. The Warriors of Westmont did not give up, however. In both the seventh and eighth innings, Westmont scored three runs and brought the potential tying or go-ahead run to the plate a total of four times.
In the seventh, Mezurashi led off with a triple to right center. Both Desaegher and Haw were hit by pitches to load the bases before Renck drove a sacrifice fly to left for the first run of the inning. Then, Reid singled down the right field line to score Desaegher and make the score 11-6. After Thomas Rudinsky became the third batter in the inning to be hit by a pitch, Rego was walked with the bases loaded, making it an 11-7 game.
Westmont would leave the bases full of Warriors, however, after Jessup made a pitching change. Marlin Brucato came in and struck out the next two batters, ending the threat of any further damage by the Warriors.
Jessup tacked on another run in the top of the eighth, before Westmont pulled to within two in the bottom of the eighth. With men on first and second and one away, Renck singled up the middle to drive in Desaegher and advance Haw to third. Reid then delivered a sacrifice fly to right to score Haw and made it a 12-9 ball game.
After Rudinsky was issued a free pass, Rego singled to right, scoring Renck and advancing Rudinsky in third to produce a 12-10 score. Just one swing away from tying the game or taking the lead, however, the Warrior offense ran out of steam on a ground out to second.
Any hopes Westmont had of a ninth inning rally to win the game were curtailed in a five-inning top of the ninth.
“They stayed in the fight, punched back and scored runs late in that game,” noted Ruiz. “The reality is that we need to fix our eyes on the goals that are in front of us. We weren’t our best today. We struggled on the mound and kicked ourselves defensively. We looked fatigued. We need to get rested, we need to recover, we need to get back on our plan and we need to get ready to compete in an opening round.
Westmont will host an NAIA Opening Round Tournament at Russ Carr Field beginning Monday, March 16. The other tournament participants won’t be announced until Thursday, May 12.
“It is nice to be able to give our guys a chance to compete at home,” said Ruiz of hosting an Opening Round Tournament. “We are going to do our best to get our facility ready and to get our guys prepared to be their absolute best come time for the opening round. We will be ready to compete. That is our job as a coaching staff and that is their job as players in this program. They will be ready to get back to work as soon as we get home.”
Ron Smith is the sports information director at Westmont College.