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College | Story | 6/4/2019

Chapman wins D-III CWS

Annika Wall        
Photo: Chapman University Baseball (Chapman Athletics)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – No matter what happened in the NCAA D-III College World Series, held at Perfect Game Field in Veterans Memorial Stadium on Tuesday, the Panthers were going to go home National Champions. It was just a matter of whether it was the No. 15 Birmingham Southern Panthers or the No. 6 Chapman University Panthers. In this series, it was Chapman who earned National Champion honors after defeating Birmingham 6-4 in the first game and 11-0 in the second.

"[It’s a] Dream come true,” Scott Laverty, Chapman head coach, said. “I’m a little speechless, just in awe that we finished it off. I believed in this team; I knew we could do it. These guys are probably why I still have a few less hairs on my head, but their gumption to stay and fight through all 27 outs, all nine innings.”

The two teams had extremely different routes to the championship matchup. It was the first time that Birmingham had made it to the CWS since switching to D-III play 12 years ago. You wouldn’t have been able to guess it, though, as they had yet to lose coming into the championship series. Chapman, on the other hand, lost their second game and faced elimination, but won three straight to reach the CWS finale.

“Winning the bracket was great, but it still wasn’t the end goal,” Laverty said. “The end goal is what we were humbly able to achieve today. I’m just humble and grateful for all my mentors and the people who have supported us.”

In the first game, Birmingham struck first in the bottom of the opening inning with a Tyler Wise triple and was drove in by a Tyler Hammel sacrifice fly. Chapman responded in the second as leadoff batter Alex Tsuruda singled to center field to drive in a pair of runs. Both exchanged runs in the third and didn’t score in the fourth, but Chapman came out swinging in the fifth.

Drew Littwin led off the inning with a double to left-center field. Henry Zeisle drove him in with an RBI single and Joe Jimenez followed with a single himself. Trevor Marrs scored the pair on a centerfield single, forcing Birmingham to make a change at the pitcher’s mound. John Michael Shirley left the game after fanning three batters and giving up six runs on eight hits.

"It was phenomenal to have the offense do what they did today,” Nick Garcia, Chapman relief pitcher, said. “You can’t speak any higher about how they’ve grown in the past month.”

Robbie Lively’s sidearm release was harder for Chapman to handle, as they went three up three down in the sixth inning before bringing in Oliver Livingston. The pair was able to shut down Chapman’s offense, allowing no hits or runs and only walking one batter.

While both teams had eight hits apiece in the game, it came down to how closely they were strung together, as all of Birmingham’s runs were scored in different innings. Additionally, Chapman played a clean, error-free game.

D3baseball All-American Tyler Peck earned the win from the pitcher’s mound, striking out five batters. Peck owns the school’s single-season strikeout record with 155 during his senior campaign. Garcia, another D3baseball All-American honoree, was credited with the save.

“As hard as it is to say, today the better team won. They were more fundamentally sound,” Jan Weisberg, Birmingham Southern’s head coach said. “It could’ve turned either way, but unfortunately that’s baseball.”

While Chapman won the first game using talented hitting, they took advantage of four Birmingham errors to secure their second-ever National Championship. Chapman scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the sixth by utilizing the bunt game to put pressure on the infield, forcing back-to-back errors. A Littwin sacrifice fly drove in Jarod Penniman to take the 1-0 lead.

Chapman extended the lead by two more runs in the seventh innings before blowing the lead wide open, scoring eight runs in the eighth, seven of which were unearned. Birmingham’s last chance to take the series to a third game was halted in the ninth, as Chapman did not allow anyone to get on base.  

Mason Collins pitched the shutout victory, striking out four batters while only allowing six hits during the complete game. Chapman finishes their season with a record of 44-12, while Birmingham falls to 42-15.

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