THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - A Gabe Gunter walk-off homerun in the bottom of the 12th inning gave the Cal Lutheran baseball team a thrilling come-from-behind 9-8 victory in a non-conference game over Willamette (Ore.) at Ullman Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
"I knew I was coming up with nobody on and two outs, so I just tried to get something over the plate and see what I could do with it," Gunter said. "I was a little out in front but it ended up working out for me. I just tried to hit it hard."
Gunter did just that, crushing the ball down the right field line, nearly hooking foul until it hit off the foul pole to send the large crowd into a frenzy.
CLU fell behind early, in a game that featured a combined 39 hits, 17 runs and six errors, as the Bearcats jumped out to a 6-1 lead after the top half of the sixth.
Max Weinstein blasted a solo homerun to left-center to put the Kingsmen on the board in the fifth, and CLU would add four more in the sixth to get back into the game.
With the bases loaded, freshman pitcher Troy Frazier stepped up to the plate for the first collegiate at-bat of his career and hit a line drive in between the shortstop and third basemen for an RBI single. One batter later, Weinstein came through with a two-RBI single up the middle while Matt Sciumbato provided an RBI single to right field to bring the Kingsmen within one, 6-5.
After the Bearcats added a run in the top of the eighth, Sciumbato came up clutch once again with a double down the left field line to drive in Sinjin Todd, who singled to lead off the inning. Gunter then drove in Sciumbato with a single through the right side to tie the game 7-7.
Willamette continued to put the pressure on the Kingsmen by adding yet another go-ahead run in the ninth inning and looked to close out the game in the bottom of the ninth.
Jimmy Jauregui, however,had other plans as he launched a ball off the wall in left field for a leadoff double. Speedster Cortez Espinoza came in to pinch-run for Jauregui at second, in a move that proved crucial for CLU. With one out, Trey Saito lined out to second base and in an attempt to force out Espinoza, the Bearcats second basemen threw the ball into left field allowing Espinoza to race around for the game-tying run.
The Kingsmen got runners to third base in both the 10th and 11th innings but were unable to bring across the winning run.
In the top of the 12th, the Bearcats loaded the bases with one out and were primed to take the lead. After a high fly ball was hit to centerfield, Todd made the catch and threw a laser to the plate to hose the runner as Saito applied the tag in time.
The high energy and momentum from that play set the stage for Gunter to cap of the game in thrilling fashion in the bottom half of the inning.
Weinstein went 4-for-6 at the plate with three RBIs while Gunter went 4-for-7 with two RBIs to lead the Kingsmen at the dish. Jauregui notched three hits and Sciumbato added two hits and two RBIs. All nine runs were scored by a different player for CLU and 22 Kingsmen saw action in an all-around team effort.
Jeff Rebello picked up his first career victory on the mound after facing one batter in the 12th and was one of six Kingsmen to see time on the hill. Saito started the game and went 4.2 innings, allowing just one earned run. Frazier, Miguel Salud and Nate Wehner all notched two strikeouts in their relief appearances while Jaden Stromire also got one out in a late inning relief appearance.
Cal Lutheran (11-6) continues its home stand against non-conference opponents this Tuesday, Mar. 21 with a doubleheader against Williams (Mass.) beginning at 12:00 p.m.
Box Score: CLU 9, WU 8 (12)
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