Despite The Oaks Loss, Senior Will Pierce Hits A Home Run In His Final Collegiate At-Bat:
Menlo's best season in program history came to a conclusion on Saturday, after the Oaks went down 8-3 to Azusa Pacific in the loser's bracket championship of the Opening Round of the 2012 NAIA National Championship. Although disappointment at the reality that there would be no more baseball in 2012, this year's squad put together an unbelievable campaign that has set the standard for years to come.
Entering the season the program had zero playoff victories. Now…6. Zero postseason tournament championships. Now…1, after an incredible run in the 2012 NAIA West Playoff Tournament in Portland, Oregon. Zero National Championship appearances. Now…1, and the right of knowing that this team was the first ever to accomplish the impressive feat. So while yes the 2012 season came to a close on Saturday, and while there is definite anguish amongst the Menlo ball club, this was a year of firsts, a year of triumph, and year that will not soon be forgotten.
Shifting to the game itself, the Oaks had previously taken out the number four team in the nation Thursday night with a high powered offense that led Menlo to an 11-7 victory. Today however was a different story as the Oaks were stifled by Cougars starting pitcher Ben Ruder.
The senior righty allowed one earned over 7.1 innings, scattering seven hits to push Azusa Pacific to the Opening Round Championship against College of Idaho. Derek Rodrigues suffered the loss, giving up six runs, only three of them earned in five innings plus.
Azusa Pacific broke a scoreless tie in the top of the 5th inning by posting a four spot off of the Monte Sereno native. A two-run double by senior Brent Warren and a two-run line drive single by senior Jordan Leyland gave the Cougars their 4-0 advantage.
Menlo came back with an unearned run in the bottom of the inning after Coleman Cox led off with a double and scored on an errant throw by APU shortstop Antony Rodriguez, but the Cougars came right back with three in the top of the 6th to break the tilt open at 7-1.
The middle innings belonged to the aforementioned Ben Ruder as the Menlo Park native retired 16 of 17 Oaks from the 3rd to the 8th. Credit Menlo however who battled to the end, giving themselves a brief look at the do-or-die clash.
Down 8-1 in the bottom of the 8th and having had their last ten hitters go down in order, Sam Shapiro singled, as part of a stellar 3-for-4 performance for the Salt Lake City, Utah native, snapping Ruder's impressive streak. Mickey Phelps followed with a single of his own and after a Taylor Cohn opposite field RBI double, Menlo had late life. The Oaks trailed 8-2 with runners on second and third, one down and Ruder about to exit Cougars Baseball Complex.
On came junior Jason Plowman who promptly gave up an infield single to Collin Forgey, loading the bases after Phelps and Cohn stayed put on second and third. Menlo's sliver of hope was effectively snatched away after Michael Brandi followed the Forgey base knock with a 6-4-3 double play to put a ribbon on the Oaks 8th inning comeback chances.
Senior Chris Cleary ended his Menlo career on a high note with a scoreless top of the 9th inning, and then fellow senior Will Pierce did the same in the bottom of the frame. The slugging first baseman from Bellevue, Washington did what so many dream of in their final collegiate at bat…Pierce touched them all. A line drive home run down the left field line signaled the final time that Menlo will see Pierce in an Oaks uniform.
Menlo ends their storied 2012 campaign 31-27 with a 6-3 playoff mark. Two wins away from the World Series.