LA JOLLA, Calif. – California Baptist University and Cal Poly Pomona opened the NCAA Division II West Regional with a rubber match after the teams split a two-game set in the middle of the regular season.
There appeared to be little between the two squads again in the Lancers’ first NCAA postseason game early Thursday at Triton Ballpark, as the regular-season share would suggest. In the end, one team had to emerge victorious and third-seeded CBU was more than happy to fill that role with a 5-3 victory, coming on the heels of the Lancers closing the game on a 5-0 run.
"You tell the team all the time there’s going to be adversity, you just don’t know where it’s going to come from," head coach Gary Adcock said. "I didn’t know it would be in the first inning – not ideal – but to these guys’ credit, they didn’t let that adversity change the game plan."
CBU improves to 38-13 and will face No. 2 Chico State (40-13) for the first time ever Friday at 7 p.m. Fourth-seeded Cal Poly takes on the winner of Thursday’s 7 p.m. finale between top-seeded host UC San Diego (35-14) and No. 6 Sonoma State (27-16) at 3 p.m. Friday.
After falling into a 3-0 hole in the top of the first inning, CBU scored the final five runs in the win. Trevor Oaks headlined the victory with another brilliant complete-game performance after the tough start. The freshly crowned Pitcher of the Year in the PacWest and National Collegiate Baseball Writer’s Association allowed just four hits, no walks and struck out five in the victory.
Offensively, the Lancers were led by Andrew Montoya's 3-for-4 performance that included two doubles, a walk, a run scored and another driven in. Nathan Antoun was 2-for-2 for CBU with a two-run homer and two walks. Mark Sanchez also went 2-for-4 for the Lancers.
"Even when we’re down, we stay locked in and stay mentally engaged," Antoun said of the early 3-0 hole his team fell into. "Once Trevor knew we were going to fight for him, he was pretty much unhittable."
On the mound, Oaks allowed just one hit and one base runner after the first inning. A double-play grounder erased the runner in the fourth, as he put together 1-2-3 innings through the second to ninth innings.
Still, Cal Poly Pomona opened strong, as a pair of singles through the right side set up a strong top first frame for the designated visiting team. With runners at the corners and one out, the Broncos’ Bo Walter delivered a big two-run double down the right-field line. Walter then scored on a sacrifice fly to left.
"There was a lot of game left, we hadn’t even swung the bat yet," Adcock said. "We had to understand we still had 27 outs to go offensively, as well."
While it would not take the lead, the momentum dramatically shifted back to CBU in the bottom of the first. With two outs and a full count, Antoun blasted a two-run homer on a full count. It scored Montoya, who led off the inning with a double down the left-field line, to bring CBU's deficit to 3-2.
Montoya continued his hot hitting, with base hits in his next two at bats. The latter came with two outs and a runner at second in the fifth inning, as Montoya sent a ball to the warning track in right field. Sanchez, who led off the frame with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Kyle Gilbert, scored easily to tie the game at 3-3.
"We’re excited to be here but we’re just trying to make it another game, not make it more than what it is," Montoya said. "We’re just trying to do what we know we can and not worry about it too much."
CBU rallied for its first lead of the day, 4-3, in the seventh. A one-out single from Gilbert and pinch-hit double from Michael Fagan put some pressure on the Broncos, who opted to intentionally walk Montoya to put a runner at every base. Blair Moore then sent a sacrifice fly into left to score Gilbert for the go-ahead run.
The Lancers got Oaks an insurance run in the eighth on a sacrifice fly from Gilbert. Oaks came back out and got a grounder, line and fly out to end the game quickly.
"What I thought [Oaks] did a good job of was being able to disregard his early misfortune, turn the scoreboard off and just go pitch-by-pitch, inning-by-inning," Adcock said, "instead of trying to get himself to the ninth in the second inning."
The Lancers look to bring momentum over into Friday night's contest, continuing to take it one game at a time.