THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Down to its final two outs and trailing by one in the top of the ninth, the Castleton baseball team found life and battled back to tie the game before scoring three more runs in the top of the 10th to stun defending national champion Cal Lutheran, 5-2, Tuesday afternoon at Ullman Stadium.
Dillon Benham sparked the ninth-inning rally with a one-out single down the left field line. Aaron Smith entered the game as a pinch-runner and it was not long before he came racing home to score the game-tying run on a crucial double by Mitchell Caron. With the game hanging in the balance, Caron bashed his second game-tying double of the contest to straightaway center to score Smith all the way from first and send it to extra innings.
The Spartans put the throttle down from there, tacking on three more runs on the strength of three hits in the top of the 10th to take their first lead of the game. Pat Mumford led off with a single to left center and was quickly in scoring position after Deagan Poland bunted him over to second. Matt Braman stepped up next and roped a line-drive RBI triple to left center for the ever-important, go-ahead run. Jonathan Lindau followed with an RBI single up the middle and came around to score on a passed ball to extend the Spartan lead to 5-2 heading into the bottom of the 10th.
Joe Gratton induced a pair of groundouts around a strikeout in the bottom of the 10th to secure the 5-2 victory for Castleton and his first career win on the mound.
Cal Lutheran (5-5) struck first with a run in the second inning and that 1-0 lead held until Caron came up with another big hit in the top of the seventh. Benham clubbed a double to center field and Caron traded places with him on a towering double that scraped the wall in right center to plate the tying run and make it 1-1.
The Kingsmen regained a 2-1 lead in the home half of the seventh on an RBI single through the left side by Ryne Yamashiro. The home team was two outs away from securing the tight victory before the Spartans rallied in their final at-bats.
After Castleton battled back to tie it in the ninth, Cal Lutheran threatened to take the victory with the bases loaded and one out in the home half. Gratton buckled down once more to produce a force out at the plate and an infield pop out to end the inning and give the Spartans the momentum they needed for the 10th-inning rally.
Seven different Spartans recorded a hit in the contest, led by Poland, Braman, Benham, and Caron each with two. Alex Borsari, Lindau, and Mumford each notched one hit apiece. Davis Mikell was strong on the mound with nine strikeouts and two runs (one earned) over 7.0 innings, but the sophomore did not factor in the decision. Gratton earned the win with a strikeout and three hits allowed over 3.0 scoreless innings of relief.
Castleton (2-1) will continue its west coast swing with a doubleheader on Wednesday. The Spartans will face Pomona-Pitzer (4-2) at 5 p.m. EST/2 p.m. PST and Chapman (4-2) at 10 p.m. EST/7 p.m. PST.