LOS ANGELES – Throwing modern conventional baseball wisdom out the window, the Occidental Tigers baseball team turned to small ball to come back from a late deficit and squeeze out a 3-2 victory against Cal Lutheran on Saturday at Anderson Field.
Billy Beane's "Moneyball" theory—which is now widely accepted throughout baseball—places a premium on getting on base and not making outs. That usually means no bunting. Especially with the game on the line.
But in the bottom of the ninth with the game tied at 2-2, the Tigers used two perfectly placed bunts from Van Fudge (Corvallis, Ore.) and Kevin Ozaki (Los Angeles) to load the bases for Scott Hong (Los Angeles) with one out. With Cal Lu's infield playing double-play depth, Hong hit a soft dribbler to short for what looked to be a possible double play. Cal Lu shortstop Trevor Koons made a clean throw to second for a force out, but the SCIAC's leading base stealer beat out Garrett Smith's back end throw, allowing Jonathan Wong (Grizzly Flats) to score the game-winning run from third base.
With the win, Oxy (21-16, 16-10 SCIAC) passed Cal Lu (20-14, 15-10 SCIAC) for sole possession of third place in the conference and added to the team's best season in 22 years. It was also Oxy's seventh win over Cal Lu in the 64-game all-time series between the schools.
Small ball wasn't reserved exclusively for the ninth inning. Trailing by one in the eighth, Dan Kelley (Kirkland, Wash.) walked to lead off and stole second to put himself in scoring position. Two batters later, Anthony Salsedo (Tracy) singled to left to advance Kelley to third. Then Third Team All-West Region shortstop Logan Allen (Atascadero), who hit third in the order for the Tigers, surprised everyone by laying down a perfectly placed safety squeeze bunt down the first-base line to score Kelley.
Oxy wouldn't have needed to rally to win the game but for a strange bounce of the ball in the top of the sixth inning. With one on, Cal Lu's Koons hit a deep fly ball to left that looked to be a homer off the bat. But Ozaki jumped for the ball at the fence and seemed to put his glove on it. Unfortunately, the ball tipped off the glove and went over the wall for a two-run home run.
The Tigers also made several dazzling defensive plays to save some runs. In the top of the third, with a runner in scoring position, Garrett Smith hit a sinking line drive to right center that looked to be a sure hit. However, Hong sprinted to his right to make a diving catch. In the top ninth, Cal Lu's John Leal hit a stinger to the gap in right center, but this time, it was Salsedo who stretched out to his left to snag the ball.
Joseph Kling (Kirksville, Mo.) got the start for the Tigers and fired five shutout innings while allowing only three base runners.
Oxy is back at action against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at Anderson Field on Friday.