PASADENA (Mar. 23, 2019) – Ever since the Caltech baseball team brought its 29-year SCIAC winless streak to an end against Pomona-Pitzer back in 2017, the Beavers had only been able to beat the Sagehens in conference play. That changed on Saturday when the Beavers defeated the University of La Verne for the first time since 1960, 4-3, in a game that featured a little bit of everything from a home run to a game-winning catch.
Sophomore first baseman Mitchell Watson (Windsor, Colo. / Windsor) brought the Beavers out of a home run drought dating back to their third game of the season when he pulled a La Verne fastball into deep left field in the very first inning of the game, staking starting pitcher Ryan Ruscansky (Annandale, N.J. / North Hunterdon) to a two-run lead following a one-run first inning by the Leopards. The home run is 'Moose's' first since last year when he led the team with three as a freshman. Ruscansky, utilized as the home team's opener before transitioning back into left-field where he played most of this weekend's series, effectively pitched to contact and showcased his superior control by not walking a single batter over four innings of work.
At the top of the fifth inning, junior shortstop Cortland Perry (New York, N.Y. / The Dalton School) relieved Ruscansky and pitched out the final five frames of the game. The junior worked around all over La Verne's top hitters and ultimately allowed just two hits over the final five innings of the game, putting himself in line for the win. Meanwhile, the Beavers' top bats looked to strike back after the visitors tied the game in the fifth inning. Following a single from freshman outfielder William Cook (El Segundo, Calif. / Windward School), La Verne opted to make a pitching change. Unphased, Perry took his turn in the batter's box and put runners on first and second with a single into right field. Cook and Perry followed up their hits with an effective double steal to give senior Mark Burleson (Ladera Ranch, Calif. / Tesoro) two runners in scoring position with nobody out. Burleson, in the midst of a career year, delivered with a single through the left side to score both Cook and Perry, giving the Beavers and their junior pitcher a two-run lead to hold over the game's final three innings.
Head Coach Kevin Whitehead's Beavers were not done with the highlights, however. Needing one run to tie the game and two to take the lead, La Verne loaded the bases in the top ninth with two outs with the Beavers needing just one more to make history. The Leopards popped a tough ball into foul territory in the range of sophomore third baseman Dillon Holder (New York, NY / Horace Mann). With the opportunity to end the game right then and there, Holder appeared to overrun the ball just slightly before correcting his body and making a highlight-reel diving catch to seal the deal for the home team.
Whitehead and the Beavers will return to North Field on Monday, Mar. 25 when they host the College of New Rochelle at 3 p.m.