Photo by Nhi Casey
WHITTIER, Calif. (Apr. 16, 2016) – Junior Kai Kirk (San Jose, Calif. / Wesleyan Univ.) and sophomore Garrett Levine (Columbus, Ohio / Columbus Acad.) pitched a pair of gems in the Saturday doubleheader as Caltech baseball gave Whittier College all it could handle in a three-game SCIAC series this past weekend.
Just 18 hours after hanging in the series opener through seven innings, the Beavers rallied behind their two best pitching performances of the season. Kirk surrendered just three earned runs over 7 2/3 innings pitched, marking the fourth start in his last five that the junior transfer has limited the opposition to four or fewer earned runs. His ERA over that span of 31 1/3 innings checks in at 5.46, which over a full season would be the lowest in program history. Levine lasted a season-high 7 1/3 innings, allowing a season-low two earned runs on eight hits and three walks while whiffing four.
Caltech 7, Whittier 16
The series began with the Poets failing to take advantage of a leadoff walk, stranding the runner at third base thanks to some impressive defense in centerfield by senior Daniel Chou (Blue Bell, Pa. / Wissahickon). All three Beavers were struck out in the bottom of the frame, but freshman Jonah Krop (Santa Monica, Calif. / Santa Monica) once again kept Whittier off the board despite allowing a pair of two-out walks as he snagged a comebacker and flipped it to first base for the third out.
Sophomore David Watson (Windsor, Colo. / Windsor) became the Beavers' first base runner with a leadoff single in the top of the third inning and the Beavers quickly loaded the bases with none out. Caltech was unable to capitalize fully on the opportunity, however, with the Beavers getting just two runs on a double play and single up the middle by sophomore Chris McCarren (Kenilworth, Ill. / North Shore Country Day).
Whittier responded immediately with a six-run fourth inning that was extended on a controversial foul call up the third base line which would have ended the inning at 2-1 in Caltech's favor. After failing to bring home a pair of base runners in the fourth inning, the Beavers halved the deficit on a McCarren triple to the deepest part of the ballpark and groundout RBI from junior Tim Menninger (Norristown, Pa. / Chestnut Hill Acad.). With their starter in line for the win, Whittier brought in a reliever who proceeded to shut down Caltech over the next two innings. Meanwhile, senior Dylan Schultz (St. Louis, Mo. / Clayton) took over for Krop and faced the minimum while not allowing a single hit from the fifth through seventh innings.
Schultz got into some trouble with back-to-back walks leading off the top of the eighth inning, however, and was removed in favor of Chou. The Poets proceeded to plate five runs in each of the final two innings to cruise to the victory, with the Beavers picking up three runs on an RBI single from junior Jared Reed (Miami, Fla. / Westminster Christian) and two-RBI double by Watson.
Caltech 5, Whittier 9
The Saturday doubleheader began with five scoreless half-innings before Whittier tacked on the first run after loading the bases with two outs in the first. Three consecutive leadoff singles loaded the bases with none out in the bottom of the third, but Kirk did well to limit the damage to a sacrifice fly sandwiched between a strikeout and infield pop-up.
Caltech struck immediately to take the lead as freshman Mark Burleson (Ladera Ranch, Calif. / Tesoro) smacked a two-RBI double to score Levine and Menninger following a walk and double, respectively.
Kirk kept the Beavers in front with a 1-2-3 fourth inning and Watson plated another run on a groundout after Reed had led off reaching via error. The Poets tied things up with a pair of runs on three singles, a walk and a sacrifice fly in the fifth, but Chou caught the batter trying to advance to second on the throw to end the inning before any more damage could be done.
Following a leadoff walk to Menninger in the sixth inning, a sacrifice bunt and fly out moved the junior over to third base, but another fly out to left field ended the frame. Kirk erased a leadoff walk to Whittier with an inning-ending double play but the Beavers were sat down in order in the top of the seventh, allowing the Poets to jump back in front with two unearned runs in the bottom of the inning. Whittier added four more in the eighth to render a two-RBI double by McCarren in the ninth ineffective.
Caltech 2, Whittier 5
For the third time in as many games, Caltech traded blows with Whittier as the Poets scored first but the Beavers promptly took the lead a half inning later. Levine and the Poets starter each retired the first four batters they faced, but Whittier took the lead in the bottom of the second inning on a two-out solo shot. Junior John Galden (Columbus, Ohio / St. Charles Prep) immediately keyed Caltech to a two-run third inning with a leadoff single up the middle. The second baseman then advanced to second on an error, moved over to third on a McCarren bunt single and each scored on a single by freshman Tucker Reese (Kennett Square, Pa. / Unionville) and the ensuing throwing error trying to catch McCarren stealing third.
Whittier successfully executed a double-steal of second and home to tie the game at 2-2 through three innings and both pitchers settled back in to continue their battle, retiring a combined nine of 11 batters faced over the next three half innings.
The Poets regained a two-run edge on a two-RBI double in the fifth inning and added an unearned insurance run in the bottom of the eighth while the Beavers could only manage three hits and a walk over the final four frames.
McCarren once again led Caltech at the plate over the series, hitting .357 (5-for-14) with one walk, two runs, four RBI and a triple. Reed and Reese each went 4-for-9, combining for four runs and two RBI. Watson and Kirk both dominated in Game One as the first baseman hit 3-for-4 with a double, run and two RBI while Kirk was 2-for-5 with a run.
Head Coach Matthew Mark and the Beavers conclude SCIAC series play against Pomona-Pitzer Colleges (14-18, 7-14) this weekend and will host the doubleheader on Saturday, Apr. 23 at 11 a.m. Pool play matchups will be finalized at the conclusion of the series, with the Beavers set to host on Wednesday, Apr. 27 and Tuesday, May 3.