OAKLAND, Calif. - Menlo College Baseball honored its 2017 senior class on Saturday afternoon at Laney College with ceremonies in-between games for its fifteen graduating seniors. For the fans in attendance, they were also treated to some pretty great baseball, too. The Oaks and Warriors battled it out for the final time in 2017 and settled for a doubleheader split, giving Menlo the series two games to one. But it was the seniors for Menlo College that helped them force a split on the day when it appeared William Jessup just might sneak out with a pair of wins. Finals of 5-3 Warriors in 10 innings and 5-4 Menlo on a walk-off leave the Oaks at 32-15 (16-10) and the Warriors 10-30 (5-21).
The trend of the afternoon was slow, deliberate baseball with an emphasis on the pitchers on the mound. Both Menlo and William Jessup displayed their arms in full-force on Saturday, with Andrew Merken and Hayden Piner drawing the starts in game one. Both pitchers were clean through the first three innings, but runs began to appear in the top of the fourth. Merken allowed a leadoff single to Sam Curtis, and after a groundout moved him to second, Joshua Duitsman singled him home, giving the Warriors an early 1-0 lead.
Menlo decided to make quick work of getting rid of the early deficit, striking back in a big way in the bottom half of the frame. Senior Julian Jarrard led off the inning with his 18th homer of the season, and his third of the series. With the game tied 1-1, Dalton Maxwell followed with a double, his GSAC-best 17th of the season. Senior Dean Aliamus was next, and he singled Maxwell to third. This brought up Peter Saldana, who has a knack for driving in runs. He wasn't able to get a chance, however, as on a one ball, two strike swing, his bat made contact with the glove of Warriors catcher Dakota Spillers. Saldana was awarded first base on catcher's interference, loading the bases with nobody out. Senior Nick Quejado walked with one out to give Menlo its first lead, and after Piner was chased from the game, Senior Reed Kienle drew a bases loaded walk as well. Menlo exited the fourth inning leading 3-1.
Merken allowed a second run in the top of the sixth after walking Rory Petersen to lead off. Justin Chase was hit by a pitch with one out, and both runners moved up on a wild pitch. With runners at second and third, Duitsman hit a groundball back to Merken. He caught Petersen in a run down, threw to third, where Joe Gillette then threw to the plate. It was off-target, but Merken was able to catch it beside the plate. He attempted to flip it to catcher Kama Eldredge, but he wasn't looking, and everybody was safe. This made it 3-2, and chased Merken from the game after 5.2 innings. Cruz Daddario came in and got the final two outs, but allowed the tying run in the top of the seventh after Joseph Howell singled with one out, and scored on a two-out double from Petersen.
The Oaks offense was stifled by the bullpen of William Jessup, and so the game went into extra innings. Kevin George was on the mound for Menlo in the top of the tenth, and he immediately ran into trouble. He walked Petersen and allowed a bunt single from Curtis. Chase laid down a two-strike sacrifice bunt to move both runners up for Duitsman, who tripled over the head of Quejado in left to score both runs and give the Warriors a 5-3 lead. Menlo went down in order in the bottom of the tenth, securing the win for William Jessup. Their bullpen retired the final eleven batters of the game for Menlo.
Game two of the doubleheader produced one of the wildest finishes you could ever imagine to an NAIA baseball game. But first, a quick recap of the first six innings of a seven inning game. Menlo got the game's first two runs in the bottom of the second, thanks to three straight singles to lead off the inning from Seniors: Dean Aliamus, Nick Quejado, and Sam Morgan. With the bases loaded, Andrew Cox bounced into a fielder's choice, with Morgan out at second, but Aliamus scoring. Senior Chance Tindall hit next, and he singled to center field, scoring Quejado and making it 2-0. This score would hold until the bottom of the sixth, when Aliamus walked with one out, stole second, and was brought home on a double from Quejado.
This 3-0 lead was plenty for Senior Jason Alexander, one of the best pitchers in the GSAC. He was absolutely cruising through the first six innings of the game, allowing just two walks and no hits. Vying for a no-hitter in the seventh, he struck out Rory Petersen, but he reached on a dropped-third strike. Sam Curtis struck out behind him for the first out of the inning. Justin Chase was next, and hit a ball that Aliamus dove for, snagged, but couldn't make a return feed to first base, and thus becoming the first hit of the game for the Warriors. No worries, right? Alexander struck out Joshua Duitsman to get one out away from his second-consecutive shutout. This is where it gets dicey. Javier Garcia singled to load the bases with two down. Joey Torres then blooped a ball down the right field line that landed fair for a two-run double, putting runners at second and third in a 3-2 game. The Warriors brought in pinch-hitter Leander Carter Jr., who had not recorded a hit all season. He singled to shallow right field with two strikes to score both runs, and suddenly, the Warriors were in front once again 4-3.
This did not deter the Oaks, specifically their Senior leaders on offense. Reed Kienle led off the bottom of the seventh with a home run to left field, his fifth of the season, and it tied the game 4-4. With two out and extra innings looming again, Jordan Getzelman singled to left field. Mikey Saldana was on the mound for William Jessup, and he saw Getzelman dancing around on first. Getzelman broke for second, so Saldana stepped off, but threw the ball into center field, allowing Getzelman to slide into third. The very next pitch, with Aliamus up, Dean lined a ball into left center field to win the game and send the Oaks into a frenzy, winners 5-4 in a crazy end to Senior Day.
Menlo hits the road one last time in 2017 next weekend, with a crucial four-game series in Westmont. The first game is a makeup game that will be a designated home game for Menlo. Doubleheaders will be played on both Friday and Saturday in Santa Barbara.