MUNOZ WINS IT WITH WALK-OFF GRANNY
LOS ANGELES — As far as storybook endings in baseball are concerned, it doesn't get much better.
Bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two outs, game is tied and a freshman, going up against his hometown school and a handful of his former teammates, steps into the batter's box.
What happened next sounds like its straight out of a cheesy Hollywood script.
Victor Munoz (La Verne) drilled a walk-off grand slam over the left field wall, giving the Occidental College baseball team a 7-3 win over La Verne at Anderson Field on Sunday, ending a suspenseful game in the most dramatic way possible.
It was the rookie's second career home run and easily the biggest hit of his young career against the first-place Leopards (23-11, 18-5 SCIAC).
As Munoz rounded the bases, his Tiger teammates waited to pounce at plate. Once he touched home, the dog pile was on.
"It was definitely my best baseball experience ever," Munoz said. "I'm speechless right now. To see the whole team there waiting for me, I knew they had my back. … It's just a great feeling."
Munoz, who grew up in La Verne playing baseball with several of the Leopards, got even more satisfaction out of his big blast because it beat a team he knows so well.
"La Verne's the No. 1 team I want to beat because I'm from La Verne and I know half the team," Munoz said, adding that some of his former teammates have given him flak for not going to La Verne. "I'm glad I came to Oxy."
In the moment, he said he tried to stay calm.
"I walked up and I just tried to think of the basics of what coach (Jesse) Rodgers and I have worked on previously in practice. I really was just trying to make contact with the ball and not try to do too much," Munoz said. "I hit the ball, it felt good, then it went over the fence and I was really surprised."
The win puts Oxy (19-15, 14-9 SCIAC) just one victory shy of clinching its first winning season since 1990 when the Tigers went 20-14 overall and 12-6 in SCIAC play.
The Tigers struggled from the plate until the inning before Munoz' big fly. Then they got a little unconventional, a little luck and right back in the game.
Kevin Ozaki (Los Angeles) led off the eighth inning with a push-bunt single to the right side. Pedro Aldape (Sherman Oaks) followed it up with a single to right, moving Ozaki to third. Then, with two outs, Aldape was picked off at first and it looked like Oxy was about to squander its best opportunity to even the game up. But when Ozaki broke for home, ULV went after him unsuccessfully, everyone was safe and the Tigers cut the lead in half with the tying run now in scoring position.
Two batters later, Johnathan Brooks (Huntington Beach) hit a high chopper to third that stayed in the air just long enough for the big designated hitter to beat out the throw to first and for Jonathan Wong (Grizzly Flats), who was moving on the pitch with two outs, to score from second base, evening the game at three.
In the bottom of the ninth, a series of equally as unusual events put Munoz in the box with a chance to win it.
Dan Kelley (Kirkland, Wash.) hit an infield single to the right side, then advanced to second on an error. With no outs, Kelley moved to third on a balk.
"We showed a lot of fight today, but we could have played better early on," Occidental coach Luke Wetmore said. "A win is a win and it was good to play well against the top team in our conference."
Brent Wunner (Temple City) finished 2 for 3 with an RBI-single in the first inning for the Tigers.
Three Leopards had three-hit days. Jacob Ludvic was 3 for 5, Mason Stoltenberg was 3 for 5 and Cody Hazel was 3 for 4.
Hong earned the win in relief, pitching a scoreless ninth inning with the score tied at three.
ULV starter Phil Shick went 7.2 innings with six strikeout and three earned runs in the no decision.
Oxy plays hosts Pomona-Pitzer on Monday at 3 p.m., the team's third game in three days.