LOS ANGELES — The Occidental College baseball team (2-7) had a pair of chances to beat a good George Fox (9-1) team on Saturday, but in each game the Tigers came away with heartbreaking one-run losses.
Oxy lost the first game 5-4 — giving up the deciding run in the eighth inning — and the second game, 8-7, in 11 innings.
Despite the tough losses, the Oxy bats woke up from their slow start to the season with several players recording multiple hits. Riley Smith had a pair of hits in each game and Victor Munoz, Devon DeRaad and A.J. Libunao each had multi-hit games in the second.
Game 1: George Fox 5, Occidental 4
After his squad failed to cross the plate Friday afternoon against George Fox in a 7-0 loss, Occidental head coach Luke Wetmore shook up the lineup for Game 1 Saturday. The moves — most notably installing left fielder Chris Caldwell in the leadoff spot and sliding first baseman Johnathan Brooks to No. 3 spot in the order — paid some dividends.
Caldwell drove a ball to deep left center against Bruin starter Tom Zarosinski in the bottom of the fifth for a three run home run, giving the Tigers a 4-2 lead.
The cushion was not enough, however, as George Fox pushed two more across to tie the game at four in the sixth. Then, in the eighth, second baseman Derek Blanke's RBI single off Occidental reliever David Feasler, who took the loss, plated shortstop Zach Israel for the go-ahead run.
Israel caused problems for the Tigers all game, going 3 for 4 with two RBI.
George Fox catcher Josh Rapacz and third baseman Danny Clifford each added three hits of their own.
Zarosinski finished what he started, setting the Tigers down in order in the bottom of the ninth to seal the 5-4 victory. He complemented the complete game by allowing just six hits, four runs (none earned) and striking out 12.
Occidental starter Mitch Margolis held his own on the mound, but ran into some tough luck with a few key breakdowns from the Tiger defense. He tallied five innings and allowed nine hits and four runs (just two earned) while striking out a pair.
Smith had a productive game at the plate, going 2 for 3 with one RBI while also reaching on an error and an intentional walk.
Game 2: George Fox 8, Occidental 7 (11 innings)
Game 2 featured a back-and-forth battle between the Bruins and the Tigers that culminated, fittingly, in extra innings.
The Tigers held a 7-6 lead in the top of the ninth with Feasler on the mound. But Bruins left fielder Derek Dixon launched his second home run of the weekend series to the tie game at seven.
Dixon struck again in the top of the 11th when he singled off of Scott Ericksen, advancing center fielder Matthew Zeller to third. Zeller then scored on first baseman Danny Clifford's sacrifice fly.
Bruin reliever Sean Eberhar earned the win in the bottom half of the inning, closing out the 8-7 victory.
Both teams used the big inning early in the game. In the top of the third, the Bruins knocked out Tiger starter C.J. Maruyama, plating three runs on a Clifford RBI double and an Israel triple.
But the Tigers answered back with five runs of their own in the bottom half of the frame against George Fox starter Sam Moreland, keeping the charge in their newfound offense alive. Munoz had a 2-RBI single during the rally — just one highlight of his 4 for 4, three RBI game.
DeRaad had a strong game for the Tigers both at the dish and on the mound. He finished 2 for 5, including blasting his first collegiate home run in the bottom of the fourth, and also threw 2.1 scoreless innings.
In the end, though, Dixon (4 for 6, two RBI), Clifford (2 for 4, three RBI) and Israel (3 for 5, two RBI) proved too much for the Tigers, and the Bruins left Los Angeles with a sweep under their belts.
The Tigers host Claremont-Mudd-Scripps next Friday at 2:30 p.m. before finishing the weekend series at Claremont Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 11 a.m.