SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Westmont Baseball kept its postseason hopes alive by sweeping Arizona Christian (24-19, 17-19) on Saturday afternoon at Russ Carr Field. The Warriors (24-23, 14-19), who tallied 27 hits on the day, won the first game 7-4 and the second 11-1.
Starter Russell Harmening (6-4) picked up the win in the first game. He pitched seven innings, giving up four runs, two of which were earned, on nine hits. Harmening struck out seven and allowed just one walk.
Michael Rishwain picked up his fifth save of the year by closing out the last two scoreless innings. He allowed just two hits.
The Warriors scored in the bottom of the first inning to take an early 1-0 lead. With one away, David Pennington singled to right field and took second when David Gael singled to left. Pennington scored on a single to center by Will Barring.
Arizona Christian responded with three runs in the top of the second inning. One run scored when Daniel Pereira singled to center driving in Orrin Sears. Chris Russell's single to center drove in Pereira and Trevor Santor to account for the other two runs.
The Firestorm held a 3-1 lead until the bottom of the fifth inning. Chris Stroh led off the inning with a double down the left field line and reached third on a sacrifice bunt by Pennington. A ground ball by Barring produced the third of the Firestorm's five errors. This one allowed Stroh to score and Barring to reach second base. A single by Brandon Gildea drove in Barring for the second run of the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, Westmont recaptured the lead when Stroh hit a solo home run over the right field fence. Stroh was six for nine on the day with three runs scored and an RBI.
Arizona Christian tied the game at four in the top of the seventh inning on an RBI double by Seth Neely that drove in Nathan Enriquez.
The tie did not last long, however, as Westmont produced three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Gabel's lead-off single was followed by a bunt single by Barring. Gildea attempted a sacrifice bunt, but an error resulted in the bases full of Warriors. Gildea was replaced at first by courtesy runner Chito Elias before Kevin Hammer reached on another error that allowed Barring and Gabel to score and Elias to take third. A sacrifice fly by Tom Hocutt produced the game's final score.
The second game saw Westmont's Brian Murphy pitch a complete game and improve his record to 5-5. Murphy allowed eight hits over the seven-inning game while allowing just one run. He struck out three and threw just 89 pitches.
Westmont scored three times in the bottom of the first inning to set the pace. Stroh led off with a single up the middle and then advanced to third when Pennington's bunt resulted in an error. Unfortunately, Pennington was hurt on the play when third baseman Joel Thys' throw went wide and first baseman Phil Creecy collided with Pennington as he raced toward first. Pennington was unable to continue and was replaced at first base by Spencer Ferdun. Ferdun also took over defensively for Pennington at second base. The extent of Pennington's injury is unknown.
A double by Gabel down the right field line drove in Stroh and moved Ferdun over to third. Barring then singled down the right field line, scoring Ferdun and moving Gabel to third. Gabel scored when Gildea hit into a 6-4-3 double play. Gabel was five for seven over the two games with four runs and an RBI.
The Firestorms' lone run came in the top of the second inning. Sears doubled down the right field line and was replaced on the base pads by courtesy runner Jake Storrer. When Thys grounded out to short Storrer advanced to third. Storrer then scored on a sacrifice fly by Santor.
The Warriors took control of the game with four more runs in the bottom of the third. With one away, Barring singled up the middle before Gildea hit a two-run home run over the left field fence. Hocutt was then hit by a pitch but was retired at second base when Kevin Hammer hit into a fielder's choice.
After Hammer stole second, Brent Fukushima bunted with two away. The ball was fielded but thrown past the first baseman, allowing Hammer to score. Fukushima advanced to second and then to third on two wild pitches. He came home on an RBI-single by Greg Ruggles.
In the bottom of the fourth, Gable hit a lead-off single down the right field line. One out later, he advanced to second on a balk. When Gildea grounded out to first, Gable took third base. A single up the middle by Hocutt drove in Gable to make the score 8-1.
The Warriors added three more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to put the game out of reach. Ferdun led off with a single through the left side and advanced to second on a single by Gabel up the middle. Barring then walked to load the bases and was replaced at first by pinch runner Ryan Beveridge.
Pinch hitter Graylin Derke reached on a fielder's choice that retired Beveridge at second but allowed Ferdun to score and Gabel to advance to third. J.J. Turbin, who has not played in several weeks due to injury, replaced Derke at first. Hocutt then singled through the right side driving in Gabel and allowing Turbin to slide into third safely. Elias, pinching hitting for Hammer, also reached on a fielder's choice, driving in Turbin for the final run of the game.
With three games remaining in the regular season, Westmont finds itself tied with Vanguard for fifth place in the GSAC standings with identical conference records of 14-19. Only the top four teams advance to the GSAC Championship Tournament. Arizona Christian, which finished up their conference play today, is in fourth place with a record of 17-19.
In order to advance to the postseason, Westmont will need to win all three of its games next week at #9 The Master's. If they do, they will tie Arizona Christian for fourth and will advance to the tournament because they have beaten Arizona Christian four of the six head-to-head games. This holds true even if Vanguard wins all three of their games against #13 Concordia since the Warriors hold the tiebreaker in a three-way tie as well.
Westmont and The Master's will meet for a single game on Friday at three o'clock and then square off at noon on Saturday for a doubleheader.