Ahh, baseball. America’s favorite pastime, and no wonder. Is there a better way to spend an afternoon than watching a live game and cheering on the home team? Under sparkling sun, and breeze just strong enough to float a few butterflies? Even the weather was perfect this Saturday as the Westmont Warriors faced off in a non-conference double-header against the Bethesda Flames at Russ Carr Field. The 33rd game of a 50 game season set to wrap at the end of April, the Warriors were favored to win after spanking the Flames 6 to 1 Friday, but Westmont was in for a surprise.
After a rousing chorus of the National Anthem, the Flames blazed a fiery comeback. Scoring a whopping 4 runs in their first at bat, the Warriors made error after error. While the home team rallied to tally a respectable 2 points in the bottom of the 6th inning—runs made by Conrad Turner and Alex Bush–the final score of the first game was a disappointing: 4:2.
It’s hard to say if the absence of Friday’s starting pitcher Daniel Butler played a role in the upset, since at least one of the three relief pitchers filling the gap was being observed by a major league scout. Pitching at speeds ranging from 91-93 mph, Michael Rishwain could have been the poster boy for the right way to play ball, and it isn’t the first time this well-seeded team was so scrutinized. Last February’s competition against British Columbia’s Thunderbirds saw a record 26 scouts in attendance, a number due in no small part to the team’s standing, currently ranked 7th out of the 275 schools in the NAIA–National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
It bears mention that the Warrior’s inclusion in the opening round of the post-season NAIA tournament these past 2 years has happened under the guidance of head coach Robert Ruiz, who came on board in 2010, and turned the floundering team around, begging the question: can they do it a third time? Winning the second game would certainly help, and this is precisely what they did. In the bottom of the 7th and final inning, Michael Valentin Jr. ran in the only point scored by either team all game, allowing the Warriors to walk off with the victory, splitting the doubleheader.
Did I say walk-off? More like whoop, run, and jump off, as the understandably exuberant Warriors celebrated the end of a hard day on the diamond. Not overly long, while the conscientious team hurried to maintain the facets of the field—raking the baselines, and tidying the plate with the pride of ownership—Michael Rishwain took a moment to answer a few questions before doing the same.
A Lodi native and kinesiology major, Michael spoke of a desire to ultimately influence younger people in a positive way with as much enthusiasm as he exhibited when talking of aspirations to major league ball. The camaraderie and competitive nature of baseball are what Michael enjoys most about the game, a sport in which he’s participated all his life. Influenced by former Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera, and grateful to Westmont’s pitching coach Coach Cougoule, the rising star credits his athletic prowess to his family, friends, and mentors as much as himself.
The cheering of the home crowd helps, too. While the bleachers boasted a respectable number of fans, some 60 people or so, there was still room for more. Remember to check the schedule at Westmont Athletics website when you’re making your weekend plans, and come out to support the Warriors. You never know, you might just catch that lucky fly ball, and you’re sure to catch fan fever, as the team that embodies what baseball is all about: good wholesome fun, take the field.