TYLER, Texas - Despite being a southern team, the Gents out-west coasted team a squad from Oregon.
Junior Kaleb Kirk (11-3) broke the single-season Maroon and White record with his 23rd-career win and the Gents used small ball and key two-out hits to explode for four runs in the second as third-seeded Centenary (35-8) beat fourth-seeded Linfield (30-14) 12-1 in the first round of the NCAA West Baseball Regional at Tyler, Texas Thursday night, May 18.
Scoreless through an inning and a half, the Gents used small ball and key two-out hits to put up five runs. Senior Scott Dwyer led off the inning with a single, and advanced to third when junior Ian Graham showed bunt and singled up the middle on the first pitch of the at-bat. Sophomore Cameron Guin laid down a squeeze bunt, but beat it out to score Dwyer and put runners at first and second, still with no outs.
Continuing with the theme, junior Cole Lavergne laid down a bunt single to load the bases with no outs. After a fielder's choice out at home, a wild pitch scored Guin and moved both runners into scoring position. A groundball off the bat of senior Aaron Quintanilla with the infield in was mishandled by the second baseman. Quintanilla was thrown out at first, but the third run crossed the plate for the Gents.
Senior Michael Schimpf followed and did what he did all season, and after two strikes, served a ball to right field for a two-out RBI. A junior Chris Zapata single and freshman Crowder's double, both coming on 1-2 counts, put Centenary up 5-0 after two innings.
Eight-of-9 Gents in the starting lineup had at least a pair of hits for the contest, led by Guin with three hits in four at-bats with three RBI's and two runs scored. Schimpf went 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI.
Centenary put the exclamation point on the game with a pair of runs in the seventh and four in the eighth. In the seventh, Graham walked and advanced to second on Guin's single. A bases-loaded double to deep left by Lavergne emptied the bases and put the Maroon and White up 8-1.
In the eighth, Quintanilla advanced to second on an error to leadoff the inning, advanced to third on a groundball, and scored on a wild pitch. Zapata followed with a triple and scored on Dwyer's two-out double. After Graham walked, Guin singled to clear the bases and put the Gents up 12-1.
Meanwhile, Kirk walked the tightrope the entire night. In the top of the first with two on and two outs, he recorded the punchout. With two outs and two Wildcats in scoring position in the third, Kirk got another strikeout and Zapata applied the tag to end the inning. With two in scoring position in the fifth, Quintanilla handled an odd hop groundball to short and Lavergne stretched at first to retire the side.
Kirk went eight innings and gave up eight hits and one run with five strikeouts.
Linfield scored its only run in the fourth when with two outs, Alex Hendra-Brown singled and scored on Jake Gellos' double down the leftfield line. However, Centenary answered in the bottom of the frame when sophomore Andrew Russell singled, was sacrificed to second, and scored on Crowder's second two-out RBI.
Linfield's starter Riley Newman threw seven innings, allowing 14 hits and eight runs.
With the win, Centenary returns to action against second-seeded Cal Lutheran Friday at 7 p.m.