And right when it started getting wild, California Baptist University turned to its lineup loaded with veteran talent to restore order.
After combining for just four runs in the first six innings, CBU and Cal State L.A. pushed across 17 runs in the final 2.5, and it was the Lancers who pushed across four in the bottom of the eighth for a come-from-behind 11-10 win over the Golden Eagles Friday afternoon.
The win makes the Lancers 1-0 on the season while the Golden Eagles fall to 0-1. CBU is now 7-3 all-time in season openers under Head Coach Gary Adcock.
"There were a lot of good things and a lot of things to work on," said Adcock. "The goal is to learn from each game and play your best game at game 50 at the end of the season. We had some really bad things happen, but we mixed in a whole bunch of positives."
The biggest positive was the ability to come back from a 10-7 deficit after surrendering a 7-2 lead in the eighth inning.
Chalk it up to a veteran lineup.
Reigning PacWest Player of the Year Matt Marnati hit a mammoth three-run bomb to complete the Lancers' four-run eighth. It was his third hit of the game. Fellow senior Matt Daugherty also had three hits and four RBIs and hit a towering three-run shot in the bottom of the seventh.
"It's crazy how this game works," said Marnati. "With six seniors in the lineup, we didn't panic and knew we could come back. We gathered ourselves and were able to score enough runs. In a 2-0 count, I'm trying to be aggressive and drive the ball. I was able to get into that one just a little bit more."
"We have six veteran hitters, and there are a lot of collegiate at-bats in that lineup," said Adcock. "They don't think they're ever out of a game. Two of our rallies started with two-strike, selfless at-bats from veteran guys that were willing to do what they needed to do in the situation."
The first rally came in the sixth when the Lancers trailed 2-0. Marnati grounded a two-strike pitch up the middle and scored on Daugherty's RBI double to right field. Blair Moore hit a sacrifice fly to score Daugherty and tie the score at 2-2.
In the seventh, Crowley singled the other way on a two-strike pitch, and three batters later, Daugherty delivered the first of the Lancers' two three-run blasts that gave the Lancers a 6-2 lead.
The Lancers led 7-2 when Cal State L.A. responded with eight runs in the top of the eighth to take a 10-7 lead. Jose Gamez, who relieved Jon Bengard and threw a scoreless seventh, was tagged for five runs after walking four batters, including three in a row in the eighth. Daugherty relieved him but gave up two singles, a fielder's choice and a sacrifice fly.
With just six outs left and a 10-7 deficit, the Lancers wasted little time. Antonio Chavarria overcame two earlier strikeouts and led off the eighth with a solo shot to right field for his first collegiate hit. Pinch-hitter Nathan Antoun was hit by a pitch with one out, and after Crowley fouled out to right, Luke Esquerra drew a walk, bringing up the go-ahead run in Marnati.
The senior delivered with perhaps his longest homer of his career well over the right field fence, and he knew it.
"It felt good coming off the bat, and I knew it as soon as I hit it," said Marnati.
"We've had a lot of games the last three years where we had to come back," said Daugherty. "We know not to panic. We don't try to hit home runs, but we have a physical lineup that tries to get good swings and put pressure on the defense."
Bengard gave up two hits and struck out six in six innings, but didn't factor in the decision.
Daugherty gave up two runs in the eighth but got a game-ending double play to get the win.
"Two years ago, I wouldn't have been able to come back from that," said Daugherty, referring to his eighth inning. "That all comes from experience. You have to be able to flush the bad stuff away, and that's something you learn through experience."