Caltech Wins 1st Conference Game In 29 Years 0

By LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

PASADENA, Calif. — The exorcism is complete.

For 29 years and a span of 587 games, California Institute of Technology had not won a single Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference game.

That all changed on when Caltech beat Pomona-Pitzer, 4-3 on a dramatic walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth.

Down 3-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth, two quick outs were recorded by Pomona-Pitzer.

Then something magical happened as David Watson singled to centerfield. After Jared Reed pinch ran for Watson, Kai Kirk doubled to left center to tie the game at 3-3.

After a pitching change, freshman Alex Corado singled to left field which scored Kirk with the winning run as bedlam ensued with the walk-off hit.

“It was an amazing feeling to get that huge monkey off our back,” said Caltech Head Coach Matthew Mark.

“You could just feel that the streak was going to be stopped soon. It was the culmination of working hard and persevering.

“The last time we won a conference game was in 1988, and that was a long time ago. I haven’t really had a chance to process what this win means. We never gave up in the game and came through in the clutch after two quick outs in the bottom of the ninth. Amazing.”

What made the win even more special is that all four runs were scored off RHP David Gerics who pitched in the Cape Cod League last summer for the Cotuit Kettleers.

“He is a terrific pitcher, and we hung in there to score four runs off him. That was quite an achievement. I received over 100 texts from various people to congratulate us. My phone hasn’t stopped since we won.”

Mark, who is in his fifth year as the skipper at Caltech, has been charged with making the baseball program competitive.

And he has done a marvelous job of doing just that after taking on the most difficult coaching job in America.

Caltech has a 6-18 record this season which is the highest amount of wins since 1966. And keep in mind that the Beavers have lost six 1-run games this season as well.

Four years ago, a year after Mark was hired, Caltech’s baseball team exorcized another demon as the Beavers knocked off Pacifica, 9-7 in the Beavers’ second game of the year in 2013.

Caltech had not won a game against an NCAA team for 228 games which stretched over 10 years.

The last time the Beavers won a contest was against Cal. St. Monterey Bay, 5-4 on Jan. 15, 2003.

Caltech’s baseball program is unique for a coach because of the massive obstacles players and coaches face.

Caltech is an NCAA Division III institution that only allows the elite of all scholars across the world to enroll.

The school is an absolute Mecca for scientific milestones, including the discovery of anti-matter, the nature of chemical bonds, the foundations of molecular biology, the birth of modern earthquake science, left brain/right brain discovery and the principles of modern aviation and jet flight.

32 Nobel Prizes
The total number of students at Caltech is usually around 3,000, and the school’s faculty and alumni have received wide recognition for achievements in science and engineering, including 32 Nobel Prizes.

The school is so prestigious that typically there are 3,500 applications for a few hundred open spots. Close to half of applicants score 800 on their math SAT scores (the highest score possible). And the admission’s staff at Caltech doesn’t automatically rubber stamp these kids. Usually more than half won’t get in.

The median grade point average of high school kids who have been allowed to enroll at Caltech and play on the baseball team is 3.9, according to former Head Coach John D’Auria who coached the Beavers for 30 years. 

In a typical year, the baseball team will have anywhere from 14-16 players.

Mark’s first team at Caltech in 2013 was comprised of only 13 players. Two of his players never played high school varsity baseball. And one of those individuals had never even played the game of baseball prior to this season.

“It has opened my eyes in working with 13 guys and how you rotate them around to get their work in.”

At times over the years, the baseball program has utilized women to play baseball.

During the 2002-2003 seasons, Kristen Zortman played for Caltech.

“She was a fabulous athlete who probably was tougher than most of the guys on the team,” said D’Auria.

“Kristen later went on to throw the javelin on the track team and did extremely well. Today, she is an engineer.”

In 2012, a lady by the name of Kayla McCue played for the Beavers. Her grandfather played baseball and ran track in Cuba.

D’Auria said that Caltech’s philosophy is to overload their undergraduates with much more than they would ever have at another institution.

“They may be getting 150 percent of the material. If the kids retain 30 percent, they are way ahead of other schools.

“They have homework sessions that are unbelievable marathons. I had kids finish homework at 11 in the morning after being up all night long.

“Then the kids, absolutely exhausted, fall asleep and don’t wake up until after dinner and miss practice. If you go to any of the eight undergraduate houses, you will find half of them with the lights on and kids awake all night long every day of the week.”

Study Marathons
Mark was amazed at the study habits of his players as well.

“Caltech is an extremely difficult academic school,” said Mark.

“But at the same time, it is very rewarding.

“Our baseball players have nights where they do project sets and stay up through the night out of necessity. I want my players to figure out how to organize and structure their days and nights so they get proper rest. These kids are becoming adults and need to learn how to organize their time. During the spring, we have practice from 4-6 p.m. And on weekends, it is 10 a.m.-1 p.m when we don’t play games. That helps them plan their schedule.”

To read more of this story, purchase the April 21, 2017 edition or subscribe to Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.