Tigers' Defense Comes Up Big As Pacific Takes The Series At Pepperdine

J.J Wagner - Photo by: Keith Sanpei
J.J Wagner - Photo by: Keith Sanpei
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Malibu, Calif. - With execution the name of the game coming into the day, the Pacific baseball team did all the little things to win as the Tigers rolled into Pepperdine and came away with the 7-5 victory on Sunday, March 16. The win for the Tigers captured the series for Pacific as they improved to 2-1 in the WCC and 10-12 on the year while the Waves fell to 13-6 overall and 1-2 in conference play.

With the game hanging in the balance the Tigers came up with every clutch play in the field to ensure the game and series victory in Malibu. Leading by just one and with runners at the corners in the eighth, junior Michael Benson induced the inning-ending and game-saving double play to second base to keep the Tigers ahead 6-5. An inning later, Benson saw his defense behind him again come up huge as the Tigers turned a short hop to third into the game-ending double play with a runner at second and only one out. 

On each occasion in the late parts of the game, the Tigers' defense turned tough ground balls into big time double plays with quick reflexes and even quicker thinking. In the ninth, the Tigers cut down the runner at third to end the game as sophomore third baseman  J.J. Wagner combined with senior first baseman Erik Lockwood for the unconventional 5-3-5 double play.

For Benson, the junior earned his fourth save of the season as he was tasked with getting the final five-outs of the contest after the Waves threatened Pacific's lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. Benson's save came for freshman Will Lydon (1-3) who earned his first collegiate victory as the first-year Tiger picked up his third quality start of the season with six strong innings of work in which he gave up five hits and three earned runs.

Lydon was able to pick up the win courtesy of his offense as Pacific came up with the run-support of their freshman hurler that had sorely been lacking through his first four go-arounds on the mound. The big inning for the Tigers came in just their second trip to the plate as Pacific plated four runs on four hits for a lead they would never give back. In the inning, the bottom half of the order strung together four-consecutive one-out singles to spark the rally. The Tigers would post RBIs from Wagner, junior Tyler Sullivan, and sophomore Gio Brusa in the inning as Wagner singled home his run while Sullivan worked a bases loaded walk and Brusa picked up the sacrifice fly. The final run of the frame was gifted to the Tigers when a wild pitch sailed to the backstop allowing junior Jimmy Gosano to score. Gosano put together his best performance of the season to date as the junior went 2-for-2 with a pair of sacrifices and the glove in the field that saved the game for the Tigers in the eighth.

In the bottom half of the inning, the Waves cut Pacific's lead in half with a pair of two-outs runs on a two-RBI double by Manny Jefferson after Lydon lost the Waves' seven and eight hitters. Jefferson, hitting ninth, went 4-for-4 for the Waves with three doubles and a single. In the third, the Waves would tack on a third run by turning a leadoff triple into a tally with a sacrifice fly. 

With their lead cut to one, the Tigers were undeterred in their move for the win as Pacific went back to work, scoring two more runs in the top of the sixth inning when Lockwood again sparked the scoring rally. Leading the inning off with his second single through the right side, the senior made his way around the bases courtesy of a sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch before scoring on a sacrifice fly by Gosano. Behind Lockwood, Wagner, who had walked and moved all the way to third on the wild pitch and fly ball, made his way home for what would be the game-winning run on an RBI single by Sullivan.

The two runs would prove to be big for the Tigers as the Waves scored once in the seventh and again in the eighth before being rebuffed by Benson and his defense. In the ninth, Pacific scored an insurance run to ease the stress of the ninth as the Tigers rallied with two-outs in the inning to come up with the score. Ultimately, it was sophomore J.P. Yakel who trotted home for the Tigers as the second-year catcher walked to start the rally and scored on a wild pitch two batters later. In the game, Yakel was walked a career-high three times to go along with a single and a ground out.

For the Waves, the loss went to Aaron Brown (3-1) who fell for the first time on the season. The lefty for the Waves lasted 6.2 innings but gave up nine hits and six runs to the Tigers to suffer the loss. Brown, hitting for himself, was the man to make the final out of the game at third base after hitting a one-out double in the ninth.

The Tigers are back in action on Tuesday, March 18 when they head to Sacramento, Calif. to take on the Hornets of Sacramento State in non-conference action. The game is scheduled for 6:35 pm from Raley Field.