Fifth and Sixth inning misfortune sinks Saints

THOUSAND OAKS- It got a bit ugly for The Arroyo Seco Saints (6-4) Saturday afternoon as one bad inning turned into a 9-5 defeat at the hands of the Conejo Oaks (7-5). But there were a few bright spots to build on as they look to rebound from losses back-to-back days.  

Things started slowly for the Saints, who went down in order in the top of the first. Fortunately for them, Danny Veloz (Hawaii) started strong on the mound and worked around one baserunner to keep the Oaks scoreless in a relatively stress-free inning.  

Joey Donnelly (UC Berkeley) reached on an error in the top of the second, the first baserunner of the game for the Saints. But he was stranded there as the Saints went down quietly again. Things were a little more stressful for Veloz in the bottom of the inning, as the Oaks had traffic on the basepaths by way of two singles. But, helped by two swinging strikeouts, Veloz again got out of the inning unscathed.  

Ryan Scott (Incarnate Word) made some small-ball magic in the top of the third, drawing a walk, then stealing second base and taking third on an errant throw to second by the catcher. But, it looked like the Saints were going to unfortunately waste their best opportunity of the early afternoon to get a run across anyway as they quickly got two outs without scoring Scott.  

Until Cam Conley (Pepperdine) smashed a double into the right-center field gap, scoring Scott. The first Saints hit of the game turned out to be a big one as it gave Conley his team-leading 10th RBI of the season and the Saints an early 1-0 lead.  

The Oaks didn’t let the Saints keep the lead for long, though. A bloop triple started the trouble for Veloz, and a single and an error later the Oaks had one run across and another in scoring position with nobody out.  

Veloz got the next two batters to flyout, but the Oaks capitalized on the two long balls-in-play, advancing to third on the first flyout and scoring on the second. The sac fly gave the Oaks a 2-1 lead, which is where the score stood at the end of the third.  

The Saints threatened to regain the lead in the top of the fourth after Donnelly reached on another error and Alex Birge (UC Berkeley) got a two-out hit with a beautiful bunt single to put runners on first and second. But the Saints couldn’t convert on the opportunity and stranded the future Cal teammates where they stood.  

Bunting for a hit may seem like an unlikely play for a catcher, but it’s a play that’s just a part of who Birge is: the kind of guy who is going to get on base by any means necessary.  

“I saw the third baseman playing really far back, and I know I can put one down at any time,” Birge said. “So I was like alright, here we go, try to put a bunt down. And it worked out.”  

Luckily, the bottom of the fourth inning went like most of the rest of Veloz’s start: smoothly. He worked around a leadoff single to keep the score at only a 2-1 advantage for the Oaks.  

But the fifth wasn’t any better offensively for the Saints, who went down one-two-three.  

And to make matters worse, things went completely sideways for Veloz in the fourth. After a couple of fluke plays that led to fielding errors, the Oaks scored a run on a double, and Tyler Gordon (Miami Ohio) was injured on the same play. After a walk to load the bases, the Oaks crushed a bases-clearing double to take a 6-1 lead. 

 A triple on the next play made it 7-1, and after a sac fly the lead ballooned to 8-1. Saints fans knew better than to ever count out their team, but facing their biggest deficit of the season on a day the offense was sputtering, this was new territory for the Saints.  

Ultimately, it wasn’t a horrible outing for Veloz by any means. Most of the baserunners against him reached on either soft contact or errors, with the three-run double really the only loud contact against him all day.  

“I thought he pitched really good,” Birge said, “Slider was good, changeup was good, fastball was good. Just unlucky events. I’m really not going to tell him to change much of anything because I thought he pitched really well today.”  

Luckily Andrew Wright (Fullerton) came in and ended the persistent Oaks threat, but the Saints had their work cut out for them.  

They bounced back in a big way in the sixth. Josh Livingston (Wichita State), batting for the first time since entering for the injured Gordon, knocked a single into right to lead off the inning. He could only watch as the next two Saints got out, but he advanced to second after Ray Bermudez (Undecided) walked. With Birge at the plate, the runners advanced to second and third on a passed ball, and despite there being two out, it marked the Saints’ best opportunity of the game to put up a big inning.  

And Birge came through with his most powerful hit of the season, smoking an opposite field double to score both runners and cut the deficit to 8-3.  

Birge has had plenty of well-documented success getting on base this season, famously taking ten walks while only striking out three times so far. But the extra-base hit was an encouraging sign for the backstop who still seemed to be finding his swing. If he can put his elite plate discipline and power bat together he’s going to be an absolute force for the Saints in the coming weeks.  

Birge admitted things have been feeling good at the plate as of recently.  

“[I’m] definitely seeing it well,” Birge said. “Just trying to be really slow and not get sped up. Baseball’s a hard game and so I’ve just been trying to keep it as simple as I can. Gotta control what I can control.”  

Scott came up after Birge’s big double and hit a bloop into right that looked like it was going to end the inning off the bat. But, the ball found a hole in the defense and skipped into the Saints’ bullpen, allowing Birge to score and Scott to advance all the way to third base for a stand-up triple. He’d be stranded there, but an 8-4 deficit felt a lot better than 8-1 for the Saints.  

Wright kept the score the same in the bottom of the sixth, and the ensuing bottom of the sixth was wild. Jakob Schardt (Fullerton) walked and advanced to second on a passed ball, but the chaos really started when Cam Conley struck out on a questionable called strike three. The Saints were vocal about their displeasure, and with hardly a warning, Caleb Reyes (Cal Poly Pomona) who did not pitch in the game, and Scott were thrown out of the game from the dugout.  

After an at bat with multiple delays due to all the chaos, Livingston finally walked and the Saints had an opportunity with multiple runners on base again. But they didn’t convert on the opportunity and the score stayed 8-4.  

Fortunately for the Saints, Wright had his best inning in his third inning of work, setting the Oaks down one-two-three.  

On the day, Wright pitched two and a third scoreless innings, giving up only one hit and striking out one. It was a gutsy, needed outing to keep the Saints in the game after the misfortune a typically reliable Veloz encountered in the fourth inning.  

But the Saints were running out of time, and a one-two-three eighth on offense didn’t make it any easier.  

And to make things worse, the Oaks added an insurance run in their half of the eighth. With the same pitcher that shut them down in the eighth heading back out to close out the ninth, it was going to take a miracle to resurrect the Saints from their 9-4 deficit.  

Schardt tried to make something happen with a single, but sat at second with two outs and all the Saints’ hopes resting on Livingston, who hit a pop up that looked like it would end the game. But much like Scott’s earlier bloop, it found just the right spot in the outfield and fell in, scoring Schardt and putting Livingston at second.  

But would it be the magic needed to spark a victory? Not quite. The game ended on the next batter and the Saints had lost consecutive games for the first time all season.  

Fortunately, the Saints have a great opportunity to rebound tomorrow night and get revenge against the MLB Academy Barons who beat them Friday night. Expect Reyes (Pomona) to start, and potentially be fueled by his ejection in this contest.  


  • Saints reporter Ethan Inman (USC) 
  • Saints photographer Jordan Teller 





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