ORANGE, Calif. – The comeback kings did what they do best in the win-or-go-home final of the regional round of the NCAA Division III Baseball Championship earlier this evening. The Panthers came from behind with a ninth-inning walk-off sacrifice bunt to beat Whitman College and earn a spot in the Super Regional round next weekend.
Sophomore Mack Cheli led off in the bottom of the ninth and smacked a double down the right field line to put a runner in scoring position with no outs. With freshman Cooper Foard taking over to pinch run, senior captain Jarod Penniman stepped up to the plate. The four-year starter laid a bunt down the third base line to move Foard to third.
Blues sophomore pitcher Travis Craven picked up the ball and turned to throw to third but put the ball in the dirt, sending it to the visitor bullpen. Foard jumped up and sprinted down the third base line, sliding into home to earn the walk-off victory and send the Chapman University baseball team sprinting onto the field in celebration.
Whitman scored early, taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when junior Kyle Reisman hit a two-out single to knock in the runner on second.
The Panthers answered in the next inning, tying the game 1-1. With Penniman on third and two outs, junior Aaron Wong singled through the right side to bring the senior home.
The Blues added another run in the top of the fourth, but the Panthers responded with their second game-tying run in the bottom half of the inning. With one on and two outs, freshman Drew Littwin doubled to left field, sending Penniman rounding the bases to reach home safely.
Senior pitcher Tyler Peck tossed two more scoreless innings to bring sophomore reliever Nick Garcia to finish out the game. Garcia allowed just three hits and kept the Blues scoreless to send the game into the bottom half of the ninth where the Panthers ended the game in thrilling walk-off fashion.
Peck struck out 10 batters in six innings pitched, allowing just one earned run on five hits. Garcia added two strikeouts in the winning effort.
Penniman went 2-for-3 with two runs scored. Wong and senior Tristan Kevitch also tallied two hits to help the Panthers.
Chapman is set to host the Concordia Tornados of Texas in the NCAA Super Regional round next weekend, May 24-25 at Hart Park in Orange, Calif.