Magazine Fall 2023 Baseball Wins Its First World Series
by Jacob Norling ’20
Westmont’s 2023 baseball season produced a dramatic and successful ending worthy of a Hollywood script when the Warriors captured their first World Series title. The previous year, Westmont won the NAIA Opening Round Tournament on our own field to advance to the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, for the first time in program history. But the 2022 run in Lewiston ended quickly after two losses.
The baseball program then underwent several notable changes, with Robert Ruiz, head baseball coach, becoming director of athletics. In addition, Simon Reid, the Warrior’s best player, was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Fortunately, with a mix of seasoned veterans, incoming freshmen and a handful of transfers, Tyler LaTorre, the new head coach, guided the Warriors through a storybook season. They posted a record of 48-9, breaking the mark set a season earlier, and captured both the GSAC Regular Season Championship and the GSAC Tournament Championship, winning both titles in the same season for the first time.
At the end of the regular season, LaTorre was named GSAC Coach of the Year, only the first such honor he would receive.
Westmont once again hosted the NAIA Opening Round Tournament, making the final NAIA game on Russell Carr Field all the more special. On May 18, Chase Goddard threw six shutout innings in an eventual 10-1 win over Benedictine Mesa, allowing the Warriors to return to the NAIA World Series for the second consecutive season.
The Warriors made their intentions clear in their return trip to Lewiston: This time they wanted to win. They made history on May 26 by coming from behind and defeating Cumberlands 7-3 to earn the team’s first-ever World Series victory. A moon-shot home run by Bryce McFeely highlighted the five-run eighth inning that won the game.
Three days later, Ryan DeSaegher’s go-ahead home run sparked a slug-fest victory for the Warriors, cementing their place in the winner’s bracket after defeating Taylor 15-9. The next day DeSaegher hit another go-ahead double, and Eric Oseguera pitched a gem in the Warriors’ 7-3 win against William Carey. They advanced to the final four.
In the double-elimination tournament, Westmont faced inevitable adversity when they played defending National Champion Southeastern in their fourth game. Following a 10-3 loss, the Warriors had to beat Southeastern the next night to play in the National Championship game.
Led by the arms of Bryan Peck, Zach Yates and Lucien Wechsberg, the Warriors pulled away in the latter innings, defeating Southeastern 6-4 to advance to the title game.
“That is the Westmont way. These guys are not just playing baseball; they’re playing for something bigger.”
– Coach Tyler LaTorre
In fitting fashion, Westmont faced off against the tournament’s host, 19-time World Series Champion Lewis-Clark State in the winner-take-all National Championship game. After a back-and-forth affair, a bases-loaded walk by Parker O’Neil gave Westmont a 7-6 lead in the bottom of the eighth, setting the stage for Gabe Arteaga to collect the final three outs of the game.
With two outs in the ninth inning and the tying run at second, Arteaga induced a high pop fly to shallow right field, where McFeely camped under it, made the catch and closed out Westmont’s time in the NAIA in grand fashion with a World Series Championship.
In the aftermath, DeSaegher and Wechsberg made the NAIA World Series All- Tournament Team, and LaTorre was named NAIA National Coach of the Year.
“Many people were a part of this,” LaTorre said. “Our president, Dr. Beebe, and our athletic director and former head coach Robert Ruiz both contributed. Westmont brought Rob in to save the program, which he did, and he got us to Lewiston last year.
“I’m so humbled to be a part of this athletic department. It’s a community. These players are not alone: They have faith in something greater than themselves. That shows on the field. Our guys have faith. Even if we had lost, our guys had faith. That is the Westmont way. These guys are not just playing baseball; they’re playing for something bigger.”
In every way, the greatest baseball team in Westmont College Baseball history embodied what it has meant, and will always mean, to be a Westmont Warrior.