Saints Advance to CCL State Championship With 1-0 Victory Over Orange CountyBy Arroyo Seco Saints August 03, 2023 09:57am
PASADENA, CA – The Arroyo Seco Saints entered Wednesday night’s divisional-round matchup against the Orange County Riptide extremely well-rested. After fighting their way into the top seed in their division, the Saints had three days of rest and preparation to gear up for their biggest game of the season.
After a walk-off thriller in Tuesday night’s matchup between the Oaks and Riptide, the Riptide traveled to Pasadena, still riding the wave of that big victory. Looking back at the regular season series between these two, the Riptide took six of seven games, with the Saints winning the final matchup in that series the week before.
Starting on the mound in the Saints’ lone win against the Riptide this season was right-hander Carter Herrera (Cal State San Bernardino); Head Coach Aaron Milam went right back to him for the playoff matchup between these two.
Herrera entered this playoff matchup without allowing an earned run in 18 straight innings; he had also pitched six innings in his last three outings. If the California native showed up and continued his recent success, the Saints would be in a great position to win this ballgame.
After tossing the first four innings of this matchup nearly flawless, Herrera ran into a bit of trouble in the fifth. With runners on the corners and two away, the Riptide were threatening to be the first team on the board. With their leadoff hitter up at the plate, it seemed like Herrera was in for a battle. Instead, the right-hander got out of the inning with a pop-out to left field.
After facing his first hint of adversity in this game, Herrera got his first taste of run support in the bottom of the fifth.
Entering this matchup with home runs in back-to-back games, Kyte McDonald (Rice) made it three-in-a-row midway through it. Swinging on a 2-0 count, McDonald launched a moonshot over the left-center field fence. His 393-foot blast put the Saints on the board and gave them their first lead of the ballgame.
Leading 1-0 through six innings, the Saints went to the bullpen. Although most of his appearances recently came as a starter, Peyton Cariaco (Kent State) entered the game hoping to set up a save opportunity in the ninth. After a leadoff single and an error on a pick-off attempt, the Riptide had the tying run 90 feet from home plate and no outs in the inning.
Cariaco, like Herrera, would get out of the jam and move on from the inning without allowing a run. Spencer Rasmussen (Azusa Pacific) made possibly the catch of the season at first base to save a run. With the infielders in and no outs, Rasmussen reacted to a shot off the bat of Chapman. Rasmussen kept the Saints in front in what seemed like a millisecond between bat and glove.
After a quiet eighth inning for both teams, Kevin Warunek (Longwood) entered the game looking for his third save of the season.
Warunek walked the first batter of the inning for the Riptide, who followed that plate appearance with a bunt. With one out in the inning, Orange County had the tying run in scoring position. Warunek had struggled against the Riptide coming into this matchup, allowing three runs in two innings pitched against the team. Luckily for Saints fans, the left-hander stepped up to the challenge in this ballgame.
Warunek would retire two straight batters following the bunt, giving the Saints a 1-0 victory.
The Saints are back in action Friday at 6:05 p.m. PST for game one of the 2023 CCL State Championship series. The Healdsburg Prune Packers travel down south for a best-of-three series against the Saints; winner takes all!
Tune into the matchup live on our Youtube Channel!
- Saints Reporter Bennett Snyder (Ohio University)
- Saints Photographer Sonny Tapia (Cal State Long Beach)