Starting the day with a record of 26-12 and 16-7 in conference play, the Brookhaven College men’s baseball team held their heads high walking away from Dallas Christian College, adding two more to their win total.
The Brookhaven College Bears piled in a bus April 22 and drove west to take on the Crusaders of DCC. The Bears ended the day by winning both games with scores of 5-3 and 6-1.
In the first game, Jeremy Bearden toed the rubber for Brookhaven and struck a Crusader out almost every inning he pitched.
He worked his way out of some tough spots, limiting the damage to only three runs, two earned. Coming into the game, Bearden had only started once this season and appeared in six other games as a relief pitcher. He nearly surpassed his total innings pitched on the year at 7.2 innings by pitching seven innings in game one.
His only real blunder during the day was giving up a home run to the Crusaders in the bottom of the third inning, which tied the game at 2-2. From then until the seventh inning, Bearden was magnificent. He looked calm, cool and collected with his slow delivery. He never let the Crusaders establish a rhythm at the plate by keeping it quick between pitches.
Brookhaven started the game in the second and third innings by tacking one run on each. After leaving a total of eight men on base between innings four and six, the Bears got back on the board with a Hayden Doggett single in the seventh, driving in Cord Perea to go up 3-2.
Bearden started the bottom of the seventh by plunking DCC’s leadoff batter. After second base was stolen, Bearden gave up a grounder to shortstop Junior Rios, who fielded it and tried to hold the runner at second as he threw to first to get the out. As soon as Rios threw, the runner on second took off for third, sliding in safely head-first.
As first baseman Kalen Warden got the ball from Rios for the first out, he quickly tried throwing the ball to Trevor Ahin on third to get the base runner coming from second base.
Unfortunately, as the ball and runner both reached the bag at the same time, the ball skipped up and off the Crusaders’ baserunner into foul territory, allowing him to get up and run home, tying the game at 3-3. Bearden then struck out the next batter and got a ground ball out, which ended the inning.
Outfielder Cole Wessling quickly started the eighth inning by signaling to center field. Second baseman Phillip Russell was up next, and on the first pitch, Wessling advanced to second base on a wild pitch. Russell then laid down a beauty of a bunt near the third base line, allowing him to use his speed to get to first safely. Russell soon stole second.
With runners on second and third, catcher Jason Nicholson stood in the batter’s box.
Head coach Brandon Rains got gutsy and gave Nicholson the sign to bunt again, trying to score the runner from third on a suicide squeeze. Nicholson saw the sign and got the bunt down, placing it perfectly down the first base line.
With no outs, Wessling decided to hold up at third because at first glance, the Crusaders’ first baseman made a nice play, sliding on his knees to field the ball quickly. But instead of just eating it, the first baseman tried getting Nicholson out at first.
He quickly spun around and threw the ball back to first base. But the throw was wild, ending up in foul territory in right field. Both Wessling and Russell then scored, giving the Bears a 5-3 lead.
Right-hander Michael Biasello came in to pitch for Brookhaven in the bottom of the eighth inning to try and close out the game. After striking out a batter for the second out, Biasello got the final Crusaders batter to pop the ball directly above home plate. Nicholson called for it and caught it for the third and final out. Brookhaven had to endure extra innings, but eventually took game one of two with a final score of 5-3.
After a 20-minute intermission, game two of the doubleheader began with Rains giving the starting nod to his normal first baseman, Trevor Ahin.
Ahin said this was the first time he had pitched since late January, his first and only previous time starting a game for Brookhaven this season. He did not seem rusty at all as catcher Cord Perea had him mixing his pitches and changing his velocity throughout the game, leaving the Crusaders helpless in the batter’s box.
Ahin faced a few batters before he found his groove as the Crusaders started off the game with men on first and third and one out. Perea quickly squashed any Crusader hopes of scoring first by throwing the runner at second out on an attempted steal. Ahin followed suit by throwing his curveball on the very next pitch, striking out the Crusaders’ batter and leaving a man stranded on third.
Perea showed his role in the winning culture Rains has cultivated at Brookhaven. Not only did he have major pop in his bat and a great rapport with all the Brookhaven pitchers, but his communication with his infielders and outfielders led to many key outs for the Bears.
Fans could hear him yelling “In, in, in,” “Over, over, over” and “Back, back, back,” guiding his teammates to the ball and making their first read a little bit quicker as the balls came off the Crusader bats. Whether it was a pop up in the infield or a long, high fly ball in the outfield, Perea directed his teammates where to make the catch. Not only did Perea do a great job catching for pitcher Trevor Ahin, but he also had a great day at the plate.
Into the top of the fourth inning, tied up at 0-0, Perea led with a line drive for a double. After two wild pitches from the Crusader pitcher, Perea was able to scoot his way over to third base. After another passed ball by the Crusaders, Perea immediately took off from third and slid into home for the first run of the game.
“I didn’t hear my coach,” Perea said. “He probably did tell me to go, but I just went on instinct.”
Freshman outfielder Jonathan Bigley kept things going with a double. After reaching third base via passed ball, the Crusaders’ pitcher walked Russell before trying to pick him off at first base. The pitcher ended up throwing the ball away, allowing Bigley to score from third, which increased the Bears’ lead to 2-0.
DCC kept it close by scoring in the bottom half of the inning. Ahin allowed a leadoff single, after which he threw two wild pitches, allowing the Crusaders’ runner to get to third base. With the infield drawn in, the next Crusaders’ batter squeaked a ground ball through for a single, scoring the first and only Crusaders run of the game.
Later in the inning, with a man on first and one out, the Crusaders batter hit a comebacker right at Ahin. Reacting quickly, Ahin stabbed at the ball with his glove and caught it. He quickly spun toward second and threw. Shortstop Junior Rios caught and quickly fired it to first baseman Kaleb Warden, turning it into a double play and escaping any more possible damage.
Third baseman Lance Brooks drove in the third run for Brookhaven in the fifth inning with a sacrifice fly to right field. Outfielder Alex Kana started the sixth inning with a walk, which was followed with a Bigley double down the right field line.
As Kana reached third base, the ball was thrown to third, but dropped and eventually trickled down into the Crusaders’ dugout. By rule, both runners advanced, giving Brookhaven another run. Warden came up next and ripped one past the drawn-in infield, scoring Bigley from third. These were all the runs Brookhaven needed as they won the second game of the day, 6-1.
As skilled as Perea and Ahin looked on the mound, they were even better at the plate. Perea is hitting .323 with two home runs, while Ahin is batting a robust .387 with six home runs.
Brookhaven began the day with a team batting average of .306 and a total of 17 home runs, according to NJCAA.org. In fact, Nicholson, Bigley, Warden, Perea, Kana, Ahin and Byron Brooks are all hitting over .300 on the year. Slick-fielding shortstop Rios is batting .299.