SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The final regular season series of 2017 wrapped on Saturday for Menlo College Baseball, and the outcome was not as desirable as the team was hoping for. Undoubtedly tired from a season of travel, the Oaks played a sluggish pair of games in Santa Barbara to wrap up the season. The Warriors offense exploded for 22 runs over two games en route to 13-4 and 9-6 wins over Menlo College. The Oaks finish the regular season at 33-18 (17-13), while the Warriors finish at 29-20 (14-15). Menlo and Westmont split their six-game season series in 2017.
The Oaks sent Andrew Merken to the mound in game one, and his outing was made short by the bats of Westmont College. The Warriors put runs on the board in five of the first six innings of the game against Menlo pitching, and Merken was the unfortunate beneficiary of a lot of the early damage. The Warriors got a run in the first after a leadoff single, a hit batsman, and a throwing error on a stolen base attempt by Westmont. This early lead would be expanded in the second inning after Westmont added five more runs. The Warriors drove home one run with a one-out double, and then proceeded to load the bases up with two down. Matt Matlock drove home one with a single and Derek Rodigo blasted a double that cleared the bases and scored three more runs. The Warriors were now out to a 6-0 lead, and it chased Merken from the game. Cruz Daddario came in and got a strikeout to end the bleeding.
Menlo did not get anything on the board until the top of the sixth, when they already trailed 9-0. Joe Gillette hit his 15th homer of the season to left field, making a small dent in the lead, now sitting at 9-1. Thomas Cox entered into the game at this point for Menlo and proceeded to allow four runs, though there were two errors in the inning by the defense behind him. Both errors happened on consecutive plays with one out, and allowed a pair of runs to be added to the already gaudy numbers for Westmont. When this inning ended, the score was 13-1.
Menlo was able to push three more runs across in the top of the eighth, but it was only cosmetic at this point. Gillette led off the inning with a walk, and the three hitters behind him proceeded to do the exact same thing. Dalton Maxwell walked, Reed Kienle walked, and after a pitching change, Sam Morgan walked to bring home a run for the Oaks. Dean Aliamus kept the train rolling with a single to left field, which scored Maxwell and kept the bases juiced. Zechariah Jarrard followed with a fly out that brought home the final run of the inning. The scoring subsided following, but the damage was done. Menlo struck out fourteen times against Warriors pitching and made five errors defensively, putting a bow on what wound up being a very sloppy game one of the final doubleheader of the season.
Things were much more even and exciting in game two of the doubleheader, but the tilt eventually still favored the Warriors of Westmont. The scoring began in the bottom of the second, when a one out single put a runner on. After a hit by pitch and a double-steal, the Warriors were able to score a run on a groundout, giving them a modest 1-0 lead after two innings. Then the Dalton Maxwell show began offensively for the Oaks, where Maxwell provided five of the six runs scored in the game for the Oaks. Kama Eldredge was hit by a pitch and then pinch run for by Alexander Thompson. A sacrifice bunt from Nick Quejado moved him to second, but that wound up being null and void because Maxwell homered to right field, giving the Oaks a 2-1 lead. Menlo starting pitcher Brian Ransom allowed a pair of runs early in the bottom of the third, giving the lead back to Westmont, this time at 3-2.
Yet again the score flipped back in the favor of Menlo, and it happened exclusively thanks to a two-out rally, aided by a Westmont error. Dean Aliamus doubled with two down, and Eldredge followed with another free pass, this time via a walk. Aliamus moved to third on an error from the Westmont pitcher, and then Quejado walked to load the bases for Maxwell. All he did was clear the bases with one swing, tripling to left field to give the Oaks a 5-3 lead, with all five runs coming courtesy of the Menlo second baseman.
One run came in against Ransom in the bottom of the fourth, and it happened after two singles and a sacrifice bunt opened the inning. Kevin George came in to relieve Ransom and got a pair of groundouts, with the first scoring a run to make it 5-4. Westmont blew it open in the bottom of the fifth after Menlo scored an unearned run in the top half of the frame to make it 6-4. George allowed a leadoff double followed by a walk, but was able to get a pair of strikeouts to keep the inning in a decent spot for Menlo. Unfortunately his command continued to evade him as he walked the next three hitters, scoring two runs and making it 6-6. A wild pitch followed to give the Warriors a 7-6 lead, and then George allowed a two-run double down the left field line to score the final runs of the game and give Westmont a 9-6 lead they would not relinquish.
Menlo clinched a playoff spot with a win in game two of the series, so the Oaks will be playing on May 7th against a currently undetermined opponent (at the time of this publication). As this is written, the Oaks appear to be the fifth seed in the playoffs, which would mean a 9:00 AM start time on May 7th, and the possibility of playing two games that day.