May 22, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Chapman captures SCIAC tourney again; prepares for NCAA DIII championships next

Chapman’s baseball team celebrates after winning the post season tournament. (Photo courtesy Larry Newman)

For the second season in a row, the Chapman University baseball team ended the SCIAC Postseason Tournament with a dog pile.

This time, it was on Chapman’s home field of Hart Park. The Panthers defeated the fourth-seeded Cal Lutheran Kingsmen 5-2 on Saturday to claim the tournament title and move on to the NCAA Division III Regional.

The Panthers’ pitching staff stole the show, allowing just three runs (two earned) as the Panthers swept their way through the tournament.

Senior Tyler Peck went six strong innings before turning the ball over to sophomore Cody Turner in the seventh. After a scoreless frame, sophomore Nick Garcia took over on the mound for a two-inning save – his ninth of the season.

Senior pitcher Jonathan Hernandez was named the SCIAC Tournament MVP after his complete game, one-hit shutout to open the tournament. The rest of the pitching staff followed the tone he set as the Panthers posted a 0.67 ERA with 25 strikeouts and just seven walks in the three games. Opposing lineups hit .160 in the tournament against the Panthers.

The Chapman offense was clicking all weekend as well as the Panthers put up another five runs in the championship game to take the title. Senior Alex Tsuruda went 2-for-3 and scored a run for his second multiple hit game of the tournament.

After the Kingsmen took advantage of an error to score a run in the first, Chapman responded in the bottom half to claim the lead.

With two outs, junior Joe Jimenez hit a chopper deep in the hole between third and short. As he beat out the long throw to first, Tsuruda scored from third. When the throw bounced to the dugout fencing, freshman Brad Shimabuku took an extra bag to score from second.

Another error in the second allowed another run to score for a 3-2 Panther lead. In the fourth, sophomore Henry Zeisler smashed a fly ball to left center that carried over the fence for a solo home run – his team-leading fourth of the year.

Ryne Yamashiro brought the Kingsmen back within two with an RBI single up the middle in the fifth but that was followed by a double play. The Kingsmen had just two more singles and a walk over the final four innings as the Panthers’ bullpen sealed the win.

Shimabuku added an insurance run in the seventh with a sacrifice fly to deep center field.

The Panthers were ranked as the No. 1 team in the NCAA’s Division III West Region rankings and now earned the SCIAC’s automatic qualifier into the NCAA Division III Championships.

Chapman will host the NCAA Division III Regional from March Friday through Sunday at Hart Park. The Panthers will face Whitman College in a best-of-five series held over three days.

The first game of the regional is set for 11 a.m. on Friday at Hart Park. The next game will be played 45 minutes after the first one ends. Game three will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

If necessary, game four will start 45 minutes after the completion of game three and game five will be held on Sunday.