CBB: Warriors blaze trail to GSAC Championship

EL CAJON – Westmont Baseball (38-17) took two games from #7 San Diego Christian (39-18) to win the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament on Saturday and earn an automatic berth into the NAIA National Championship.

After losing the first game on Thursday to San Diego Christian, Westmont won four games in a row and eliminated all three other teams from the tournament. In two games today, Westmont scored 30 runs and had 41 hits.

In the early game, Westmont staved off elimination by defeating the Hawks 17-11. Hunter Christenson picked-up the win in relief, improving his season record to 3-2. Christenson, who took the mound in the sixth inning, gave up three runs, only one of which was earned. Christenson allowed three hits.

Tyler Karp pitched the first five innings allowing three runs on six hits. Sam Sheehan pitched two and one-third innings beginning in the top of the seventh. He allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits and struck out three. Blake Mathias pitched the final two-thirds of an inning allowing three runs, one earned, on three hits.

Westmont got on the scoreboard first when Alex Bush singled in Joey Gonzales in the bottom of the first. Gonzales had reached on a one-out walk and taken second on a single by Brandon Gildea.

San Diego Christian took the lead by scoring two runs in the top of the third. However, the Warriors answered back in the bottom of the third with two runs of their own. With two away, Gildea reached on an infield single and was replaced on the base pads by courtesy runner Ryan Beveridge. David Gabel then single through the right side of the infield, advancing Beveridge to second.

Alex Bush, who was four for five in the game with three RBIs and a runs scored, doubled to right center, driving in both Beveridge and Gabel.

The Hawks scored a single run in the top of the fifth when GSAC Player of the Year Cade Gotta put a lead-off home run over the left-field fence.

Once again, Westmont matched San Diego Christian’s output by putting up a run in the bottom half of the same inning. With Steven Pollex on third, Brandon Gildea delivered a sacrifice fly to center field to make the score 4-3 in the Warriors’ favor.

In the top of the sixth the Hawks took their largest lead of the game (6-4) by posting three runs on the scoreboard. This time the Warriors not only matched the Hawks production, but exceeded it by one to take an 8-6 advantage.

With two ducks on the pond and two away, Derek Rodigo pinch hit for Chris Stroh and singled to right to score Brent Fukushima and Rudy Leon. Pollex then singled to right field to drive in Stroh who had re-entered the game. Gonzales drove in the fourth run of the inning with a double to right, allowing Pollex to score.

Westmont added another four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to take a 12-6 advantage. Bush hit a bunt single with one away and then reached third when Fukushima doubled to right. Will Barring was intentionally walked; bring up Leon whose single up the middle drove in Fukushima and Bush. A sacrifice bunt by Stroh allowed Barring to score and Leon to reach second. Pollex then drove in Leon with a single to right field.

The Warriors put up another five in the fifth inning. With runners at second and third and two outs, Barring singled up the middle driving in Beveridge and Fukushima. Leon singled through the right side allowing Barring to take third. Stroh then stepped to the plate and pounded the ball over the right field fence for three more runs.

In the top of the ninth, San Diego Christian scored five times to account for the final score, but was still six runs short when Chad Erickson lined into a game-ending double play. The victory set up a game seven to determine the GSAC Tournament Championship.

Westmont sent freshman Daniel Butler to the mound for the final game. Butler, who was awarded the win, pitched six and one-third innings, giving up five runs, four of which were earned, on nine hits. Butler struck out four and walked three.

Tayler Martin pitched the final two and two-thirds innings without allowing a run and earned his first save of the year. He allowed just two hits, struck out one and did not allow a walk.

San Diego Christian scored a single run in each of the first two innings to take a 2-0 lead. Westmont scored first in the third inning when Gabel drove in Gonzales with a single to left, making the score 2-1. Westmont tied the game at two in the top of the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Barring that scored Fukushima.

After San Diego Christian scored one in the bottom of the fourth inning, Westmont responded with three in the fifth and three in the sixth. In the fifth, Gonzales scored when Bush reached on an error. Fukushima then drove a ball just over the left field fence for a two-run home run.

In the sixth inning, a bunt single by Gonzales and an error resulted in runs scored by Stroh and Pollex. An RBI-single by Gildea brought in Gonzalez for the third run of the inning, making the score 8-3.

The Hawks drew to within two (8-5) with two runs in the bottom of the seventh, but Westmont stretched their advantage back to four (9-5) when Bush drove in Gonzales with a single through the left side in the top of the eight.

In the top of the ninth, the Warriors produced four more runs to pad their lead. With the bases loaded and one away, Gonzales singled through the right side, scoring Leon and Barring. Gildea then doubled to right center to knock in Pollex. A ground out by Gabel allowed Gonzales to score for the final run of the game.

Gonzalez had seven hits over the two games with six runs scored and three RBIs. Gilda was seven of 10 with three RBIs. Leon was five of 10 with four runs scored and two RBIs while Bush was five of 11 with two runs scored and four RBIs.

Westmont will now wait to hear at which of the nine NAIA opening round sites they will play. The announcement is due out on Friday, May 9 with the tournaments starting on Monday, May 12.