LOS ANGELES — With runners on first and third and the score tied at two in the bottom of the eighth, the Occidental College baseball team turned to trickery to manufacture the game-winning run in a 3-2 victory over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at Anderson Field on Friday.
Just as CMS pitcher Andor Kessleman came set on the mound, Oxy's Alec Strain (Sacramento) darted for second, causing the Stags dugout to yell at Kessleman to step off. As the right-handed pitcher turned his attention toward Strain, who was easily picked off at this point as part of a designed play, Wong broke for home. The Stags got Strain in the 1-6-3 putout, but Wong's slide into home knocked the ball loose from the catcher on the subsequent throw to the plate and Oxy took the lead.
They've executed their first-and-third special better throughout the season, but although Wong didn't beat Brian Gose's throw to the dish, it still put the pressure on CMS to be sound defensively.
"We had speed on the bases, and we did a good job of executing and forcing them to play catch," Occidental coach Luke Wetmore said. "The catcher had it, but a good hard slide by Wong forced the ball out."
In the ninth, the combination of Jacob Blodgett (Culver City), Josh Throckmorton (Bedford, Mass.) and Scott Hong (Los Angeles) each pitched an out in a scoreless ninth, completing the Tigers' season sweep of CMS.
Just as the deciding play wasn't perfect, neither were the Tigers. But Wetmore felt good about his team's ability to position itself for win, just as they've done many times this season.
"We didn't play perfect. We left a lot of opportunities on the table, but our guys believe in each other and their ability to be successful," said the first-year head coach. "We stayed close, put ourselves in the right spots and good things happened."
In four games and 34 innings against the CMS this year, Oxy held the Stags to just three runs.
With one game to play, the Tigers are 22-16 overall and 17-10 in SCIAC play, their best season since the 1990 when they went 20-14 overall and 12-6 in the SCIAC.
Catcher Brent Wunner (Temple City), who led eight Oxy seniors in their last game at Anderson Field with a 2-for-3 day at the plate, initiated the Tigers offense in the eighth, leading off with a single. Then Wong pinch ran for Wunner, stole second and moved to third on a single by Alec Strain (Sacramento), putting Oxy in the often-gimmicky baseball spot they capitalized from.
Two innings earlier in the sixth, Wunner tied the game at two with an RBI-single to left field that scored Logan Allen (Atascadero).
CMS scored the game's first run in the top of the second when J.J. Suttle drove in Michael Erb on an RBI-single to center field. In the third, Brian Gose grounded out to short, scoring Green to give CMS a 2-0 lead.
One inning later, with Kevin Ozaki (Los Angeles) on second base, Hong came within just a few feet from a two-run homer that would have given Oxy the lead, but his deep fly ball to straight-away center was tracked down by William Knowles at the wall.
Oxy's Tyler Eyrich (Stevenson Ranch) went 5.1 innings with an earned run and three strikeouts in his final start as a Tiger.
Matt Malott (San Diego) earned the win, pitching 2.2 scoreless innings in relief.
Oxy heads to Whittier on Saturday, playing its season finale against the only SCIAC team it hasn't beaten this season.