RIVERSIDE --- With its season possibly on the line and an NCCAA World Series berth at stake, California Baptist University got up off the mat.
Needing a pair of wins over unbeaten Fresno Pacific, Matt Daugherty got the save in game one, started and got the win in game two and also hit a massive three-run homer to propel the top-seed Lancers to a pair of wins over the Sunbirds and the NCCAA West Region title on a hot Saturday afternoon.
The Lancers staved off elimination with a 6-2 win in the first game today and then won the “if necessary” game 12-5 in a game the Lancers ran away with late.
The defending NCCAA National Champion Lancers head into next week’s NCCAA World Series in Mason, Ohio, at 37-18 overall.
The Sunbirds’ are 32-22.
Daugherty capped an amazing five-game run through the tournament with a complete performance on the bump and at the plate today. He was 3 for 4 in the two games and his three-run homer in the top of the fifth turned a 2-1 CBU lead into a 5-1 advantage.
The senior finished the tournament hitting .500 (7 for 14) with five runs and four RBIs and a trio of walks.
As hot as he was the dish, he was equally dominating on the mound. For six innings, he scattered six hits and allowed just one run, coming on a groundout in the fourth. He struck out four and induced two inning-ending double plays.
And all that came after he got the final two outs a half hour earlier in the Lancers’ 6-2 win to force the second game.
“If you look at the box scores, it was senior day,” said CBU Head Coach Gary Adcock. “We had a senior win the first game and a senior make his first start of the year in the second game. We had some good senior at-bats. We played well in every facet of the game, and Matt was able to keep us in the game, especially inducing the double play in a key moment.”
CBU took an early 2-0 lead in the first without the benefit of a hit. FPU starter James Lagorio issued three walks (one intentional) and then hit Daugherty with the bases loaded. Matt Marnati hit a sacrifice fly, and the Lancers had two quick runs.
They had multiple opportunities, getting runners in scoring position in each of the first three innings, but finally broke through on Daugherty’s ninth homer of the year, a three-run shot after Blair Moore singled and Zach Esquerra drew the third of four walks.
CBU then blew the game wide open with a seven-run seventh to open a 12-1 lead, sending 11 batters to the plate. After a pair of intentional walks to load the bases, Marnati delivered a two-run single up the middle to make it 7-1. Ryan Cathers and Mark Sanchez both hit run-scoring singles, and Luke Esqeurra smacked a three-run blast over the 406 sign in dead center field, and the route was on.
The Sunbirds finally got to a tired Daugherty, who went longer than he has ever done in his four-year career, in the bottom of the seventh, but it was too little too late. Brett bishop connected on a three-run homer to left field for the Sunbirds’ fourth hit of the inning, but Cody Weatherbee replaced Daugherty and got Steven Moon and Kyle Coppom to line out, the latter on a check swing, foul ball.
The Lancers got to the “if necessary” game behind reigning PacWest Pitcher of the Year Jon Bengard, who tossed six shutout innings, allowing three hits. He only allowed four base runners and none of them reached second base.
Bengard (12-1) struck out seven to move within five of tying the program’s single-season strikeout record of 118.
Meanwhile, Cathers gave the Lancers a 1-0 lead with a two-out, RBI single in the second off Ryan Castadio, who settled in nicely until getting into some trouble in the sixth—no thanks to his defense.
The Sunbirds committed three errors and none was bigger than Coppom dropping a bases-loaded fly ball from Marnati that led to five unearned runs. After the dropped fly and a foul out from Cathers, Crowley made it 3-0 with a sacrifice fly, but a passed ball, a walk and consecutive RBI singles from Luke Esquerra and Montoya pushed the margin to 6-0.
Moore had two hits, getting a hit in every tournament game and finishing with a tournament-high eight hits. Zach Esquerra was also 2 for 4.