PHOENIX, Ariz. --- After three straight pitching duels between the two top teams in the Pacific West Conference, Saturday finally had some offense.
And California Baptist University has Zach Esquerra to thank for that.
Esquerra enjoyed a career day with three home runs to literally power the Lancers to a 15-6 win over No. 15 Grand Canyon in the four-game series finale at Brazell Stadium. The teams split the series.
With today’s win, the defending PacWest Champion Lancers improve to 28-14 overall, 21-7 PacWest. The ’Lopes are now 32-11, 24-6.
After the ’Lopes scored twice in the first, Esquerra hit a solo shot in the second to make it 2-1. He hit a two-run shot in the fourth to give the Lancers a 3-2 lead and then hammered a leadoff blast to left center in the Lancers’ four-run seventh that extended their lead to 12-3.
For Esquerra, it was his first career three-homer day and in the process became the third Lancer in program history to hit 40 career bombs, joining Aaron Seuss, who hit 51 from 2005-07 and Robert Muro, who hit 42 from 1997-98.
Esquerra is also now tied for second in all of college baseball with 15 home runs, tying NCAA Division II Northeastern State’s Cody Robinson and trailing only Kris Bryant of NCAA Division I San Diego, who has 17.
Every Lancer starter had a hit. Esquerra was 4 for 6 with four RBIs. Ryan Cathers and Matt Daugherty had three hits each. Blair Moore and Matt Marnati each had two hits. Marnati, who now has 271 career hits just three shy of tying the program record, scored four times. Moore had three RBIs as did Antonio Chavarria.
Esquerra fourth-inning shot to right center gave the Lancers a 3-2 lead. Andy Crowley then punched a blooper that dropped just inside the left field line, scoring Matt Maranti, who had walked following Esquerra’s blast.
The ’Lopes got within 4-3 on an unearned run in the bottom of the fourth, but the Lancers tacked on two more after a two-out GCU error in the fifth. Moore led off with a single up the middle and was on third when Marnati smashed a comebacker to Austin Buelow, whose throw sailed over Michael Pomeroy and into right field, scoring Moore. Cathers lined a double into the right field corner to give the Lancers a 6-3 lead.
Grand Canyon got runners to second and third with two outs in the fifth, but Johnathan Davis got Derek Mendoza to fly out to left to end the inning, and the ’Lopes never threatened after that.
Mark Sanchez singled and Luke Esquerra doubled to lead off the sixth. An RBI groundout by Chavarria and a fielder’s choice grounder from Moore made it 8-3. Moore had a two-RBI single in the Lancers’ four-run seventh to make it 12-3.
The Lancers scored runs in seven of the nine innings, including each of the final six.
Michael Davis started for the Lancers, lasting 3.2 innings and giving up two earned runs. Erik Salcido (1-0) got the win in relief, tossing a scoreless inning with a strikeout.