Week 3 Recap: The Saints Find their GrooveBy Arroyo Seco Saints June 27, 2023 02:14am
After 5 games full of nail-biting play, 8th inning rallies and several ESPN-worthy highlights, the Saints emerge undefeated for week 3 of the season.
To be perfectly candid, the environment heading into Tuesday’s game was less than ideal. The team was fresh off of an extremely tough loss back in Pasadena and a four hour bus ride away in San Luis Obispo about to play in a stadium packed with opposing fans. It didn’t seem to deter the Saints however, nor did the rough ground the infield were dealing with.
Shortstop Richie Morales (Arizona) had a particularly stellar performance providing backup for his pitchers, including a line-drive double play in the 8th. Peyton Cariaco (Kent State) pitched the first four innings, striking out three batters and giving up no runs. He’s yet to allow a run in his eight innings pitched so far this season.
The Saints put three runs on the board in the second inning after capitalizing on a pair of errors. Another set of errors from the Blues’ defense put three more innings on the board. Anthony Giannette (Louisiana Tech) and Hayden Lewis (Arizona) came in and protected the lead for five innings between the two of them, allowing only one run from the Blues.
The external conditions didn’t matter in the scheme of things. In the words of Cariaco, the Saints had the right mentality that night.
The Saints brought the momentum with them on the long bus ride back to Pasadena for Wednesday’s rematch with San Luis Obispo. The pressure was on, and so was the excitement. The Saints were eager for their first at-home win of the summer.
Jared Quandt (Hawaii) kicked things off with a 380-feet shot over the right field fence in the very first at-bat of the game. The Saints brought in another two runs. The team fed off of Quandt and brought in an additional run in the first inning, loading the bases with Jack Little’s (Wichita State) expertly laid-down bunt and scoring on Jaime Perez’s (Tarleton State) RBI.
The Blues took a one-run temporary lead in the top of the third. Kevin Warunek (Longwood) struck out five batters and kept the Blues’ scoreless until the Saints were able to retake the lead in the 5th. The Quandt Show continued with his second, identical 380-feet home run to catch up with the Blues. Kyte McDonald (Wichita State) got on base with a well-placed bunt, and retook the lead for the Saints on an overthrow from the catcher down to second. Perez’s RBI pulled in a third run to cushion the lead.
Each team brought in a run in the sixth, and the Saints bullpen fended off San Luis Obispo’s lineup for the remainder of the game to secure a 6-4 win.
The Saints kept fans on the edges of their seats Friday night against the Conejo Oaks.
The game started as a pitching duel with Caleb Reyes (Cal Poly Pomona) on the mound for the Saints, who threw his second scoreless outing in a row. He retired all nine batters he faced, striking out three.
The Saints had the opportunity to score with two extra-base hits from Mason Hammonds (Tarleton State) and Max Blessinger (Belmont), but they weren’t quite able to get on the board.
The Oaks went ahead by two in the fourth inning. Jacob Henderson (Iowa) had an impressive first appearance of the season where he, like Reyes, retired nine straight batters.
It wasn’t until the eighth inning that the pieces fell into place. McDonald, who continues to be an exemplary base runner so far this season, singled and stole his way to third. He scored on an error, putting Saints on the board after seven scoreless innings, while Jack Hammond (Long Beach State) reached first.
Jack Little (Baylor) and Alex Birge (Wichita State) joined Hammond on base with a single and a walk respectively, leaving the Saints with bases loaded and no outs. Max Blessinger (Belmont) came in clutch with a single to right field to bring in the tying run.
The Oaks managed to retire two batters afterwards, until Julian Alvarez (Cal Baptist) drilled the ball to left-center and cleared the bases, putting the Saints ahead by three. Matt Holzhammer (Tarleton State) took the mound to finish the last three innings, and became the third pitcher that evening to retire every single better he faced.
It seemed the Saints were making a habit of late-game rallies in game two against the Oaks.
Conejo took a two-run lead early in the game, but gave up one run in the bottom half of the first. Alex Birge’s single put runners on the corners, and Raider Tello’s (Iowa) RBI brought in Blessinger.
Carter Herrera (Cal State Fullerton) hit his stride in the second, striking out five and keeping the Oaks scoreless for three innings. The defense remained errorless for the duration of the game.
The Saints’ bats appeared to be coming alive in the seventh with Alec Jones’ (Cincinnati) single. McDonald (Wichita State) appeared to beat out a double play, placing runners on the corners, until an interference call at second base ended the at-bat.
Arroyo Seco came out swinging in their next at-bat. Roberto Gonzalez started off with a double. Richie Morales’ (Arizona) line drive out of the infield had Gonzalez poised to score, but he wasn’t quite in time. However, Blessinger — the Saints Player of the Week — came in clutch again with an RBI single to tie up the game for the second night in a row. Birge chopped a ground ball over first base that resulted in a wild throw from the second baseman which scored Blessinger.
The Saints were the ultimate example of keeping your head up, staying focused and level-headed despite several setbacks throughout the game. Their rewards a 3-2 victory and a maintained undefeated status for the week.
The fifth win of the week was arguably the most exciting — and nerve-wracking for those in the dugout and bleachers alike.
The Saints struck early with a double from Tello and an error resulting from Hammond’s at-bat. The Oaks, however, jumped ahead by one in the third. The Saints lost some heat in the following innings and couldn’t manage a run for several innings. Tello’s bat stayed hot however, despite only arriving in Pasadena this week. He went 4 for 5 with a single, double and eventually two runs scored.
The Oaks were out to win. By the sixth inning, they were ahead 6-1.
Pinch hitter Preston Godfrey (New Mexico State) stepped up to the plate with two outs and two runners on. He delivered with a single to score Blessinger and Quandt.
The tide started to turn. For his first appearance of the season, Aaron Eden (San Jose State) threw a scoreless seventh inning. Brayden Matthews (Walters State) came in and did the same. James Nelson (Longwood) knocked a 366-foot home run and seemed to really bring life back into the game.
Matthews held the Oaks again in the ninth, leaving the Saints with three out to eke out a win. Tello walked and put the tying run at the plate, but the Oaks put away two in a row. Jones and pinch hitter Chase Meggers (Oregon) had back-to-back walks to load the bases. And then the Saints faced the quintessential bases loaded, two outs in the bottom of the ninth, high-pressure situation.
Nelson came through once again. His single tied the game, but it didn’t end there. Nelson headed to second — then occupied by Meggers — and drew a throw. The toss from the Oaks catcher missed, however, and then Meggers was on the move. Amidst cheers and teammates crowding home, the Saints walked it off and secured their fifth win in a row.
The shouts and cheers filling the stadium were nearly deafening as the Saints stormed the field to celebrate their last-minute victory. Heading into week four of the season, the Saints now have the confidence only supplied by a perfect week of play.
- Saints Reporter Sydney Barragan (New York University)
- Saints Photographer Sonny Tapia (Cal State Long Beach)