LOS ANGELES — The No. 8 Occidental baseball team took another step towards history.
Scott Ericksen pitched the game of the year, Jamie Cooper hit a two-run homer and the Tigers beat No. 18 Cal Lutheran 4-1 at Anderson Field on Friday in the first of a three-game series between the teams this weekend.
Oxy wins its 25th game out of its last 26 and improves its second double-digit win streak of the season to 12 games. Earlier this year Oxy won 13 in a row.
Season Impact: The Tigers go to 27-5 overall and 19-3 in SCIAC play, holding a two-game lead over Cal Lu for first place with six regular season games to go. The Kingsmen fall to 23-10 and 17-5 in conference.
Oxy is chasing its first SCIAC Championship since 1982. The Tigers can clinch at least a share of the title with two wins at Cal Lutheran on Saturday when the teams square off for a doubleheader to finish their series.
Oxy has already clinched a seed no lower than No. 3 in the four-team SCIAC Postseason Tournament that determines the SCIAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Playoffs, but not the conference champion.
Ericksen, a senior from Lafeyette, pitched a complete game with no earned runs and five strikeouts. He walked just three batters and allowed just three hits. The only time he got into much trouble was when there were errors behind him.
"Even though there were mistakes made, every once in awhile we all make mistakes, I know that those guys are going to make the play 9.9 out of 10 times, so I can get back in there, throw strikes, challenge hitters and let my team play behind me," Ericksen said. "This is what we've been working for all year and I can't ask for anything else right now as a senior."
Ericksen got a lift from Cooper, who hit a monster two-run shot over the center-field wall in the fourth inning, bringing home Eamon McNeil to give Oxy a 2-0 lead.
"He was throwing a lot of off speed pitches. I was just looking for something out and over the plate," said Cooper, who finished the day 2 for 4 with the homer, a double, two runs and two RBIs. "As soon as I hit it, I knew that I had it."
The Kingsmen threatened to get even in the fifth and sixth innings, but each time Oxy made the defensive play it needed to get out of the inning unscathed.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth, Oxy second baseman Graham Pimm dove to his right to snag a one-hop line drive off the bat of Gabriel Gunther, and camly threw to first for the third out of the inning.
If Pimm's play was maybe Oxy's most critical defensive contribution, Ericksen made the Tigers' most impressive play to avoid trouble in Cal Lu's next turn at the plate. With runners on first and second and no outs, Justin Cana tried to drop down a sacrifice bunt, but he lined it halfway to the rubber. Ericksen took three hard strides, made a diving catch and then threw a strike to first to double up Weston Clark.
The Kingsmen were able to get one run back during the sixth off of another error, but Ericksen settled back in and struck out Max Price looking to end Cal Lu's last good chance of the game to add runs.
The Tigers posted two insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh on line-drive singles that bounced off of diving Cal Lutheran infielders. Brady Fuller hit a line drive to short that kicked into the outfield and later Jack Brancheau hit a similar liner to first that was too much to handle, giving Oxy a 4-1 edge.
McNeil finished 2 for 4 for Oxy and Fuller was 1 for 3 with an RBI and a run scored.
Devon DeRaad, who's leading the SCIAC in home runs, RBIs, on base percentage and slugging percentage, went 1 for 2 with a single and a pair of walks.
Behind DeRaad, Brancheau, Oxy's clean up hitter, went 1 for 4 with an RBI-single and was robbed of a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth.
Next Game: Oxy and Cal Lu play a doubleheader in Thousand Oaks on Saturday.
The final four regular season SCIAC games on Oxy's schedule will be determined Saturday night. The Tigers do know that they will be away on April 27 and April 30, and home for a doubleheader to finish the season on May 1.
The double-elimination SCIAC Postseason Tournament is May 6-8.Follow Oxy Athletics on Twitter Sign Up for Newsletters Watch on Youtube Follow us on Instagram