MASON, Ohio --- Back on May 3 when California Baptist University dropped a 7-6 decision at Point Loma, it seemed as if the wild roller coaster ride towards a conference title was all but over.
Seemingly left for dead after going 7-7 in the previous 14 games and probably needing a four-game series sweep of the Sea Lions, the Lancers caught a second wind when Grand Canyon dropped both games of a season-ending doubleheader at home to Dixie State later that night.
What transpired since then was nothing short of remarkable.
Three days later, the Lancers won the PacWest title in dramatic fashion with a pair of walk-off wins in a doubleheader sweep at home of Point Loma. Five days after that, the Lancers came out of the loser’s bracket to beat Fresno Pacific twice in one day to win the NCCAA West Region title.
Then, just seven days after that, it all culminated today in what has to be one of the most dominating NCCAA World Series runs ever as the Lancers put the final cap on a 6-0 tournament with a 7-0 win over Southeastern to win the 2013 NCCAA World Series, their second straight national championship. The Lancers become the first team to repeat since Dallas Baptist in 2004.
In six tournament games, the Lancers allowed just seven total runs, only four of them earned, for an eye-popping 0.90 ERA. They had three shutouts and held opponents to just a .231 batting average. Meanwhile, the Lancers hit .350 as a team, outscoring their opponents 42-7.
The Lancers, who won 12 of their final 13 games to finish the season 43-18, complete an extraordinary four-year run that included four straight conference titles, three World Series appearances and two national championships.
The Fire finishes their season at 38-29.
“I tell the guys all the time that we need three things to be successful. We need to be prepared, have talent and have some luck and I think we had a little bit more luck this time around,” said CBU Head Coach Gary Adcock. “We are talented and are prepared, but we got a lot of breaks, and you need those to be able to win a championship. This feels great and we’ll enjoy this one for a while.”
And no one will probably enjoy it more than senior Matt Daugherty, who had a final collegiate game for the ages.
In just his third career start, Daugherty fired a six-hit shutout, the Lancers’ third of the tournament. And he hit a seventh-inning solo home run in his final collegiate at-bat, his 10th bomb of the year.
“It just feels like it was meant to be,” said Daugherty. “I did everything I could and didn’t leave anything on the table. It felt great to end it like that. I couldn’t have written a better script than this.”
“That’s a pretty good way to end a fantastic career. I don’t know if you can dream it any better than that,” said Adcock.
Daugherty, who also won the regional championship-clinching game last Saturday in his second career start, carried a two-hitter into the seventh inning and at one point retired 11 in a row after giving up consecutive one-out singles in the second. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out five.
The Fire threatened to score in the seventh with back-to-back leadoff singles before Daugherty induced a blooper to center that Andy Crowley laid out to snag. Carlos Guzman then singled up the middle, but Crowley unloaded his second outfield assist in as many games, firing a strike to Garrett Trevino, who tagged out Daniel Mims at the plate for the second out of the inning.
Two pitches later, Daugherty got Phil Kish to fly out to Zach Esquerra in right field, and the Lancers’ second dog pile in as many Saturdays was on.
“The plan all along was to go to Daugherty in this game if we hadn’t exhausted him during the week,” said Adcock. “The plan played out perfectly. It was one of those rare times when your plan works out.”
It took the Lancers all of two innings to put the game to extinguish the Fire. The Lancers sent 11 batters to the plate in the second, rapped out five hits, including three straight run-scoring knocks and took advantage of three Southeastern errors.
Esquerra, the World Series MVP, started the inning with a double that deflected off the third base bag. Two batters later, Matt Marnati singled through the right side to score the game’s first run. A Fire error scored another run before Luke Esquerra hit a two-RBI double right down the left field line, and Antonio Chavarria and Blair Moore followed with consecutive RBI singles.
The Lancers threatened again in the third, but left the bases loaded.
Daugherty led off the seventh with his career-best 10th home run of the year, a no-doubter to deep left field.
All nine Lancer starters had a hit. Marnati was the lone Lancer with two as he went 2 for 4 to finish his career with 285 hits, most in program history.
Esquerra was .438 (7 for 16) with six RBI, five runs, six walks and a pair of doubles to earn MVP honors. Chavarria hit .500 (9 for 18) with six runs, three RBI, a double and a home run and was named to the All-Tournament team.
“If I had to use one word about this season, it’s ‘exhausting,’” said Adcock, who was named NCCAA Coach of the Year for the second straight year. “This season was exhausting, but I give a lot of the credit to my coaching staff. At times we weren’t good, but they came up with plans and did the extra work, we implemented it and the players executed it. There’s no better way to end a season.”