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Oxy, Rutgers-Newark go 23 innings in all-time thriller

By Sean Lee
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LOS ANGELES – When ardent Occidental College baseball supporter Haley Gandsey left Game 1 of the Tigers' doubleheader on Saturday, it was the bottom of the 10th inning. She couldn't stay. She had women's lacrosse practice.

Box Score

2 hours and 45 minutes later she thought she was returning to catch the end of Game 2, amazed to find Game 1 in the 22nd inning.

In what is believed to be the longest game in Occidental College baseball history, the Tigers dropped a heartbreaking 8-5 decision to Rutgers-Newark after 23 innings and 6 hours and 36 minutes.

The teams combined for 156 at-bats, amassed 30 hits and left a total of 39 runners stranded on base. Fifteen pitchers toed the rubber for both teams and three relievers pitched at least five innings. Oxy's Riley Smith (Bellevue, Wash.) and Rutgers-Newark's Kevin Olah, Brian Kokos, and Ryan Macfarlane each recorded 10 at-bats.

Oxy (15-6) shortstop Logan Allen (Atascadero) said once the sting of the loss fades, it will be a pretty memorable game.

"It's pretty cool. Definitely something we'll look back on," Allen said. "But it's going to take a few days to get over the loss."

After Macfarlane and Gerry Patrizio opened the Rutgers-Newark (4-10) 23rd with consecutive singles, Olah laced a triple to left center past a diving Scott Hong (Los Angeles), giving the Scarlet Raiders a two-run lead.

"I see the ball go up and I'm going to my right. I got to a point where if I stopped, one run would score," Hong said. "But I thought I had a chance to make that out and so I went for it."

Jimmy Napolitano hit a sacrifice fly to center later in the inning to cap the rally. Hong showed off his outfield arm, but narrowly missed throwing out Olah at the plate.

In the bottom of the 23rd, Allen doubled off the left field wall with one out, giving the Tigers one last shot, but Smith lined out to second and Victor Munoz (La Verne) grounded out to short to end the game.

Andrew Nasti, who came on to pitch in the 19th inning when the Scarlet Raiders ran out of pitchers, earned the victory in his first collegiate appearance after pitching five efficient innings.

Oxy mounted a dramatic eighth inning rally to send the game in to extra innings after trailing for much of the game and managing only two hits off Rutgers-Newark starter Michael Rivera through seven innings. After Chris Strain (Bellevue, Wash.) and Hong got on with walks, Johnathan Brooks (Huntington Beach) and Allen promptly followed with base hits to cut the deficit to 5-3. And with some help from Rutgers-Newark's Chris Nichols who issued two walks, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch, the Tigers finally tied the game.

Neither team would score again for the next 15 innings, although both came close on several occasions.

In the 18th, Allen missed a walk-off grand slam by 8 feet as the ball sailed foul down the left-field line. Allen popped up later in the at bat and the threat subsided.

Oxy's best chance came in the 20th. The Tigers loaded the bases with no outs, and after Hong struck out, pinch hitter Brooks Brennan (Scottsdale, Ariz.) pushed what looked to be the game-winning single to left field. However, Rutgers-Newark left fielder Matt Larangera calmly played the ball on a hop and rifled a perfect throw to home to force out Munoz, who was hesitating for a split second on the third-base bag with less than two outs, for a possible sacrifice fly.

In the top of the 14th with two outs, Rutgers-Newark put on a hit-and-run with a man on first and Jimmy Napolitano drove one to deep right center that would certainly would have broken the tie. However, the ball rolled beneath the gates in the outfield wall and it was ruled a ground rule double, advancing the runner only to third. Hong who was pitching in sixth inning of relief, struck out next batter to end the threat.

Hong, Oxy's closer, moved onto the mound from center field in the ninth and pitched six shutout innings, whiffing eight and allowing only four baserunners. He threw 93 pitches.

Oxy's double play trio of Allen, Smith and Pedro Aldape (Sherman Oaks) turned in five twin killers in the game, the most crucial of which came in the 16th inning. With Macfarlane on third and Olah on first with one out, Josh Bendig (Valencia) induced a slow ground ball to Smith who quickly flipped it over to Allen who then tossed it over to Aldape for a rally-killing double play. Rutgers-Newark coach Mark Rizzi took exception to the call, argued with both umpires and was ejected from the game.

The marathon of a game forced the second game of the planned doubleheader to Sunday. The teams are tentatively scheduled to play two games on Sunday. The first starts at 10 a.m. and is scheduled for seven innings. The second will begin immediately following and is scheduled for nine.