Russ Carr Field opener is home run for Warriors

Opening Day at the newly renovated Russ Carr Field proved to be a truly remarkable day as a standing room only crowd cheered on the 2010 Warriors to a doubleheader sweep of #10 Pomona-Pitzer.

“Our guys really appreciated that so many people came out so support us from the campus and from the community,” said Westmont Head Coach Robert Ruiz. “It meant so much to us to have students, faculty, families and alumni cheering us on. I think our returning guys were shocked at the amount of support we had in the stands today.”

The day began with a stirring rendition of the national anthem by Stephanie Garcia and a ceremonial first pitch by Westmont President Dr. Gayle Beebe. Then the two teams took the field for the first game ever played at the new park.

The early going did not look so good for the Warriors when James Kang hit a leadoff homerun to give the Sagehens an early lead. But it proved to be a minor blemish on a fine performance by Westmont starter Daniel Cabuling.

“Daniel did a great job,” said Ruiz. “He had great composure on the mound even though there was all kinds of excitement with the first game on the new field and a lot of people in the stands cheering and supporting. The third pitch of the ball game goes out over the right-center gap. It says a lot about his mental makeup and composer as a pitcher that he came right back and threw strikes and kept us in the game. He was positive in the dugout and had a great tempo on the mound. He hung in there and gave us a shot to come back and win that game. We were really excited about his first outing for us as a starter.”

The Warriors did not take long to respond. After left fielder Coby Cress sent a one-out double to right field, second baseman Jordan Bottenfield doubled down the right-field line to drive in Cress and tie the game at one.

However, the Sagehens picked up two unearned runs in the top of the third inning – the result of two errors by Warrior infielders. The score remained 3-1 until the bottom of the fifth inning when Warrior bats sprung to life.

Shortstop Evan Wadginski singled to right to start the inning and advanced to second when center fielder Terrell Wong knocked a single through the left side of the infield. Left fielder Coby Cress then singled to short left field and just when it looked like the Warriors might have the bases loaded with no outs, the Sagehens left fielder bobbled the ball allowing Wadginski to score and Wong to advance to third. A walk to Bottenfield loaded the bases and Pomona-Pitzer’s starting pitcher James Brunswick was taken from the game in favor of Devin Matthew.

That’s when designated hitter Tim Leary stepped to the plate and sent the second pitch he saw 345 feet over the left field wall to collect four of his six RBIs on a grand slam homerun.

“I had just talked with the hitters before the bottom of the fifth about sticking with our plan and not getting frustrated when the outcome wasn’t there,” said Ruiz. “We were implementing a good plan offensively, but things weren’t falling our way. I encouraged them to stay loose and be aggressive. I really think the success of the fifth inning came out of that. The guys worked at having a good aggressive approach in the right counts.

“I was excited for Tim and excited that our first home run as a program was a come-from-behind grand slam,” said Ruiz. “It was a pretty special moment. I thought Tim did a great job staying composed and staying focused in that situation.

“As a coach, the one thing you want to see in your team is that when you fall behind early that you don’t lie down but that you continue to fight back. That’s what our team did for 18 innings today. We knew we had 18 innings of baseball to play and that we were playing a great program that has done very well in their conference. We knew we were going to have to compete for 18 innings. Whether we were up, down or even, we wanted to stay focused on our process and I think we did a good job with it.”

The Warriors tacked on another run in the sixth inning when Cress recorded an RBI on a sacrifice fly that scored Wadginski from third. But the Sagehens scored a run in the top of the seventh off of reliever Kyle Noe to make the score 7-4. In the bottom of the eighth, the Warriors made their advantage considerably more comfortable.

Catcher Evan Soliman doubled down the left field line to start the inning and Wadginski sacrificed Soliman to third. One out later, Cress singled to second, scoring Soliman from third. A walk to Bottenfield moved Cress over to second base, bring up Leary. Leary’s double to right center scored both Bottenfield and Cress. Leary then scored on a single by first baseman Colten Christianson, giving Westmont an 11-4 advantage.

Pete McCarthy was called upon to put the game to bed in the top of the ninth inning, relieving Noe.  Noe had worked two innings, giving up one earned run on two hits and striking out one. McCarthy gave up a one-out tripled to Kang but coaxed Bingham to ground out and Campbell to strike out to end the game to the delight of Westmont coaches, players, and fans alike.

Cabuling, who gave up three runs (one earned) in six innings of work, was credited with the win. Cabuling struck out four and did not allow a walk. Brunswick was charged with the Sagehen’s loss.

The second game pitted Pomona-Pitzer pitcher David Colvin against Westmont’s Gregg Pellici. Two errors once again resulted in opening frame runs for the Sagehens, this time giving the visitors a 2-0 lead on unearned runs.

Westmont took one run back in the bottom of the first when Wong was hit by a pitch and later scored when Bottenfield doubled to left field. But beginning in the second inning, Colvin and Pellici would dominate the game and prevent either team from scoring.

“I thought Gregg did a phenomenal job,” said Ruiz. “He came out to compete, he had great tempo and continued to challenge hitters. Early on we gave up two unearned runs behind him. I was happy to see the way he handled it. He came back and kept throwing strikes, allowing guys to make plays behind him. He settled in and started cruising.”

In the bottom of the six, Wong led off with a triple down the right field line, but the Warriors were unable to bring the center fielder home.

“TK did a great job getting that lead off triple,” said Ruiz. “He gave us a shot to get back into that game. We had our two, three and four hitters coming up with a guy on third with nobody out. But we couldn’t get the job done.”

In the seventh inning, Colvin was replaced with Leo Rosetti while Pellici pitched through the seventh and was relieved by Dan Price in the top of the eighth. Pellici had given up five hits and two unearned runs while striking out five. He did not allow a walk.

In the bottom of the eighth, Wong received a two-out walk and later took second on a wild pitch. Cress returned to the plate and gave the Warriors what they were looking for, a two-run homerun over the right-center field fence. For Cress, it was the culmination of a four-for-seven day with four RBIs and four runs scored. For the Warriors it was a one-run lead going into the top of the ninth.

Price walked designated hitter Michael Goldberg to lead off the inning – the only walk the Warrior pitchers gave up all day. Zach Haberman came in to pinch run for Goldberg and reached second when the Kyle Pokorny, the Sagehens’ second baseman, laid down a sacrifice bunt. Outfielder Erik Munzer recorded the innings’ second out when he hit a grounder to first base. That brought up the leadoff hitter Kang who started the day with a home run. Kang made solid contact with one of Price’s pitches, but the ball was fielded on a line drive by Cress in left to end the game.

“I congratulated Dan after the game,” said Ruiz. “I was really proud of the way he took the mound. He came in and threw strikes. He gave up one walk in the ninth, but stayed confident that he was going to get the job done. He fielded the bunt, got the out and then finished off the game against Kang who is a phenomenal hitter.

“Our pitchers threw strikes all day,” said Ruiz. “We gave up two earned runs all day and just one walk in 18 innings. We ask our pitchers to keep tempo on the mound and fill up the strike zone, and they did that.”

The strong pitching performance by the Warrior staff, coupled with patience and determination by Westmont’s hitters, resulted in a remarkable day for the re-opening of Russ Carr Field.

Westmont will return to action on Wednesday afternoon when they are scheduled to host California Lutheran in a two o’clock game.