The Chapman University baseball team opens the NCAA Division III baseball championships in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Friday at 8 a.m. PT against Washington & Jefferson College of Washington, Pa.
The Panthers (38-11) are making their 15th postseason appearance since joining Division III in 1995, but it’s their first CWS trip in eight years. They advanced to the eight-team, double-elimination World Series by sweeping Concordia University (of Texas) in a best-of-three super regional last weekend, taking the decisive game in walk-off fashion at Hart Park in Orange.
“It’s great for us to have a chance to play in the series,” said Chapman coach Scott Laverty, who took over the program three years ago. “It’s been a while since we have, and this will be a phenomenal experience for the players, for the seniors who have worked hard to get here and the younger players to be a part of this as a learning experience.”
Chapman won its only other Division III national title in 2003, but the program has enjoyed plenty of success beyond that. Chapman’s 1968 team won the Division II crown, the school’s first-ever national title in any sport. Once the Panthers transitioned to Division III in 1995, more success followed with CWS appearances in 1997, 2000 (finishing third) and 2001. The Panthers made six more CWS appearances after the 2003 title, including a third-place finish in 2006 and a runner-up finish in 2011.
These sixth-ranked Panthers are led by stingy pitching. Senior right-hander Tyler Peck (7-3, 1.72 ERA) leads Division III with 150 strikeouts in 104-1/3 innings, and sophomore closer Nick Garcia, also a right-hander, has nine saves and a 0.56 ERA in 48 innings. Peck and Garcia were named first-team All-Americans by D3baseball.com and added the same honor from the American Baseball Coaches Association on Thursday.
In the postseason, Laverty has leaned on the duo in the clinching game in each round. Peck went six innings in Game 5 against Whitman (Wash.) College then handed the ball to Garcia for the final nine outs. They used a similar formula in Game 2 of the Super Regional against Concordia last weekend. The Panthers walked off in the bottom of the ninth in both games as the duo combined for a 0.50 ERA and 24 strikeouts.
Tristan Kevitch and Jarod Penniman have paced the Chapman offense during its postseason run. After hitting .266 in the regular season, Kevitch is batting .556 (15 for 27) with five doubles and a home run in the playoffs. Penniman, a smooth-fielding shortstop, is hitting .444 (12 for 27) in the postseason and scored on a wild pitch to end the super regional.
“We knew we had a good team, and this was in our sites,” Laverty said of the CWS.
Washington & Jefferson is one of just two teams in the field (Webster, Mo. is the other) that did not play a home game during regional or super regional competition.
The Presidents swept their way through a regional at 12th-ranked Salisbury (Md.) University and swept super regional host Misericordia (Pa.) University to earn their second World Series berth in three seasons. The Presidents (37-11) are 16-2 in their last 18 road games, have won eight straight games overall and 34 of their last 38 overall.
The Presidents are led by a trio of seniors at the top of their lineup: center fielder Dante Dalesandro (.360 batting average, .459 on-base percentage, .522 slugging percentage, 41 RBIs, 14 stolen bases), second baseman Mullen Socha (eight HRs, 18 doubles, .600 slugging percentage, 49 RBIs, 51 runs scored, 14 stolen bases) and left fielder James Artale (seven HRs, 44 RBIs, .551 slugging percentage).
Junior right-hander Ben Marsico (11-1, 3.29 ERA) anchors a Washington & Jefferson pitching staff that includes senior right-handers Mitchell Taufer (3-0, 0.83 ERA, 32-2/3 innings) and Clay Martin (11 saves, five in the postseason) at the back of the bullpen.
Chapman will play its second game at 8 a.m. or 11:15 a.m. PT on Saturday, depending on the outcome of Friday’s opener.
The winner of the four-team double-elimination Pool A, which also includes 18th-ranked Webster and 23rd-ranked UMass-Boston, will advance to the best-of-three championship series against the Pool B winner. Pool B consists of No. 7 Babson (Mass.) College, No. 22 Johns Hopkins University (Md.), No. 15 Birmingham Southern (Ala.) College and Heidelberg (Ohio) University.
Tyler (of Texas) won the 2018 title in its first trip to the CWS. The Patriots swept Texas Lutheran in the best-of-three series 8-1 and 9-6 in Appleton, Wisc., where the tournament was played from 2000-2018.
DIVISION III COLLEGE WORLD SERIES
All games at Veterans Memorial Stadium, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; all times are PT
Game 1: Chapman (38-11) vs. Washington & Jefferson (37-11), 8 a.m.
Game 2: Webster (37-11) vs. UMass-Boston (35-12), 11:15 a.m.
Game 3: Babson (38-8) vs. John Hopkins (35-11), 2:30 p.m.
Game 4: Birmingham Southern (39-13) vs. Heidelberg (35-13), 5:45 p.m.
Game 5: Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2, 8 a.m.
Game 6: Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2, 11:15 a.m.
Game 7: Loser of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4, 2:30 p.m.
Game 8: Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 4, 5:45 p.m.
Game 9: Loser of Game 6 vs. Winner of Game 5, 8 a.m.
Game 10: Loser of Game 8 vs. Winner of Game 7, 11:15 a.m.
Game 11: Winner of Game 6 vs. Winner of Game 9, 2:30 p.m.
Game 12: Winner of Game 8 vs. Winner of Game 10, 5:45 p.m.
Game 13 (if nec.): Winner of Game 11 vs. Loser of Game 11 , 10 a.m.
Game 14 (if nec.)**: Winner of Game 12 vs. Loser of Game 12, 10 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.
* Should neither of these game go to the “if necessary” game, the best-of-3 championship series begins at 10 a.m.
** If Game 13 is not necessary, Game 14 will be played at 10 a.m.
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