Photos by Nhi Casey
PASADENA, Calif. (Mar. 12, 2015) – Freshman Garrett Levine (Columbus, Ohio / Columbus Acad.) was perfect at the plate and picked up the save in Game One as the Caltech baseball team swept Drew University for its first back-to-back wins since 2000 on Thursday afternoon.
The Beavers rallied from early deficits before taking the lead midway through and holding on in both games, winning a marathon opener 11-10 and the nightcap 8-7. Caltech improves to 2-15 overall while Drew slides to 1-6.
"The guys have been close in so many aspects of the game all season and it was good to see them battle back to take the lead and learn how to win a couple one-run games today," Head Coach Matthew Mark said.
Junior Daniel Chou (Blue Bell, Pa. / Wissahickon) collected hits in both games to extend his hitting streak to nine games – the program's longest in at least five years – while Levine was a perfect 4-for-4 in Game One, becoming the only Beaver to record a perfect day at the plate with more than three hits in at least the last five years as well and recording the first Caltech save since 2000.
"Chou is a clear leader for us both on the field and in the dugout," Mark said. "Being in that leadoff spot, he has been a real table-setter the last three games in particular. He really sets the bar for the rest of the team in all three aspects."
Game 1: Caltech 11, Drew 10
The Rangers, fresh off a win over Occidental College the day prior, served notice early with a five-run first inning thanks to several blunders in the field, but Chou settled in on the mound with a big strikeout to get out of the inning.
Chou shouldered the offensive load as well in the bottom of the frame, leading off with a single and stealing second before coming home on an RBI double by freshman Chris McCarren (Kenilworth, Ill. / North Shore Country Day).
The veteran retired the Rangers in order in the second to set the stage for the Beavers on offense, and the hosts came through. Levine led off with a double to the centerfield wall and was joined on the base paths by sophomore Harrison Jacobs (Tucson, Ariz. / Catalina Foothills), but Drew took the air out of the sails with back-to-back strikeouts. Caltech was not about to let the opportunity go to waste, though, as the runners advanced a base via a wild pitch and Chou brought both home with a sharp single down the left field line before stealing second again. An error on a shallow fly ball to center saw Chou score, and freshman David Watson (Fort Collins, Colo. / Windsor) singled McCarren home for the tying run.
Chou mowed down the Rangers in order in the fourth and a Watson single went for naught on the Caltech side before Drew struck back in the fifth, picking up three hits with two outs to plate two and take the 7-6 lead. The Beavers had another answer, however, and this time it was a resounding one. Caltech immediately loaded the bases via a hit-by-pitch, single and walk and scored two runs on consecutive wild pitches before the Drew reliever left with an injury. A botched double-steal attempt resulted in the first out of the inning, but the Beavers soon loaded the bases again on a single and intentional walk to Chou. McCarren muscled a sacrifice fly to centerfield to score one run and Watson tagged a double to right center to clear the bases for two more to cap the five-run inning, with Caltech leading 11-7.Chou escaped the third inning unscathed after runners reached second and third with just one out, and the Beavers capitalized once more in the bottom of the frame. Following a leadoff walk by senior Ryan Casey (Valencia, Calif. / Valencia), Levine smashed another double off the right field wall, but as he looked to stretch it into a triple, Casey held up at third and the two were caught in the middle of the basepaths. Levine booked back to second, but Casey broke for home as the shortstop hesitated and slid under the tag for the go-ahead run.
Chou recorded one out in the sixth inning before surrendering a run and heading out to center, while Levine moved over to the mound. The rookie quickly retired one batter but Drew pushed across another run on an error to pull within two and loaded the bases before Levine coaxed a groundout to short to end the inning. The Rangers came up with another run in the seventh on a sharp single through the left side and RBI single down the line, but after loading the bases again Chou made a spectacular running catch in center to maintain the lead.
"Splitting Garrett and Chou was the plan the whole way, so we didn't tax either since it was a shorter week," Mark said. "It worked out well, with Chou keeping it close enough to hand it off to Garrett to finish out like he did and both making a couple plays to help each other out in the field."
The Beavers could not get anything going over the next two innings, earning just one trip to first in each, but Levine locked in on the mound, allowing just a hit-by-pitch and walk while making a heads-up play to erase the leadoff runner on a fielder's choice at third base in the ninth to preserve the victory.
Levine's reached base in all five trips to the plate, going 4-for-4 with a walk and two runs, while Chou filled up the box score with a 2-for-4 batting line, one walk, three runs, two RBI and two stolen bases. Watson smashed three hits in four at-bats while driving home three runs and McCarren went 1-for-4 with two RBI and a run. On the mound, Chou surrendered just four earned runs over 5 1/3 innings to earn the Beaver's only victory for the third consecutive year, while Levine gave up just one run over 3 2/3 innings.
Game 2: Caltech 8, Drew 7
The Rangers tacked on another three runs in the second to take the 7-4 lead when both pitchers found their groove, with neither allowing a single hit over the next two innings. Caltech opened the floodgates with yet another big inning in the bottom of the fourth, though. The nightcap had the makings of another barnburner from the start, as both teams put up four-spots in the first inning. Senior Derek Kearney (Carlsbad, Calif. / La Costa Canyon) opened the game with a strikeout, but Drew strung together four hits to plate two and scored two more on a balk and groundout. In the bottom of the inning, the Beavers loaded the bases with two outs thanks to a pair of walks and a hit-by-pitch. Levine drew a bases-loaded walk to score McCarren, followed by a two-RBI single from senior Oliver Curtiss (Hudson, Ohio / Western Reserve Acad.) and another RBI single from Jacobs.
Sophomore John Galden (Columbus, Ohio / St. Charles Prep) doubled with one out and scored in the next at-bat as Chou kept his hitting streak alive with a single to left. McCarren joined Chou on the bases and Watson crushed a double through the left side to plate the junior and chase the Rangers' starter from the game. Drew's pitching change proved to be ill-fated as two more runs would score on a balk and wild pitch, handing Caltech the 8-7 lead.
Kearney was locked in at that point, sitting down the Rangers in order over the next two innings to bring his tally to 13 straight hitters retired. With Caltech still up by one heading into the top of the seventh and final inning, Drew threatened to take the game to extra innings. After a leadoff single, the tying run advanced to third base with just one out, but in the next at-bat Kearney quickly closed in on a soft squeeze attempt and flipped it to sophomore Tim Menninger (Norristown, Pa. / Chestnut Hill Acad.) for the tag out at home. A groundout to Galden at second base sealed the sweep for the Beavers.
Curtiss, McCarren and Watson earned their way aboard the bases twice apiece while Kearney punched out four without walking a single batter in the complete game.
"We got some great contributions from the freshman class on both sides of the ball, with our veterans all mixing in as well," Mark said. "The guys are really starting to click in their roles. Drew is a dangerous team that beat Oxy just yesterday, and I have a lot of respect for their coach. It was a great day for our guys and the program."
Mark and the Beavers will return to the diamond on Friday, Mar. 20 for the first of a three-game series against Providence Christian College (9-4) at Arcadia County Park.