The Grand Canyon University baseball team, making their first appearance in the NCAA Division II West Region Championships since 2002 and winless in the postseason since joining the division in 1999, punched their ticket to the NCAA Division II College World Series in Cary, N.C. with a double-header sweep of Chico State today at Bruce Hurst Field in St. George, Utah.
Entering today, the Antelopes (39-17) had to win twice to advance in the postseason, while the Wildcats needed just one win. Chico State concluded their 2013 season with a 37-18 record.
GCU won the first game, 9-6, and led the entire way in the second, posting a 6-2 victory.
GCU will next play St. Edward’s, the winner of the South Central Region on Sunday, May 26 at 2 p.m. (Arizona time). The tournament opens on Saturday, May 25 with Franklin Pierce facing Shippensburg and Minnesota State Mankato to face Grand Valley State. On the second day, Coker will faceoff against Tampa, while the final game will see the ‘Lopes play St. Edward’s.
Starter Trent Wilson pitched a strong 5.0 innings for GCU, allowing 3 runs on 6 hits with 2 strikeouts in his 16th appearance (11thstart) of the season. He did not factor into the decision as the ‘Lopes were forced to utilize four relievers in the contest, with Mark Jarrett improving to 4-1 on the season with 1.1 scoreless innings of relief.
Brian Kraft continued to swing a hot bat, going 2-for-5 with 2 runs scored and 3 RBI. Charles Wagner and Kyle Raidy picked up 3 hits apiece in the contest, while Steven Swingle and Brandon Smith added 2 hits. Paul Panaccione and Wagner also chipped in with 2 RBI.
Kraft led off the bottom half of the first with a double down the left field line and moved to third on a well-executed groundout to the right side by Panaccione. Derek Mendoza hit a hard groundball to the third baseman, who was charged with an error as Kraft crossed home plate and handed GCU an early 1-0 lead.
The Wildcats answered with a run of their own in the third inning on back-to-back singles with two outs. GCU responded with a pair of two-out hits themselves, as Swingle scored Wagner to once again give the ‘Lopes a one run lead at 2-1 in the bottom of the frame.
Chico State tied the game for the second time with another two-out hit, this time an RBI double to left centerfield, in the fourth.
Continuing the trend of two-out hits, Kraft unloaded on a 1-2 pitch, sending it over the right field fence to score Smith and Raidy and put the ‘Lopes back on top, 5-2. The homer was Kraft’s team-best fifth long ball of the season.
For the third straight inning, Chico State put a run on the board, this time with the help of a wild pitch and throwing error by Swingle.
In the top of the seventh, the Wildcats had the bases loaded with two outs, plating two runs via back-to-back hit batters and knotting the score at five. Cody Repenning entered the game in relief and induced a groundout to third base, where Mendoza made a great play to end the inning. During what was a wild top of the frame, Chico State head coach Dave Taylor and first base coach Cody Foster were ejected from the game after arguing an infield fly call.
Chico State carried their momentum into the eighth inning, scoring the go-ahead run with two outs and runners on first and third. However, the tables turned when the ‘Lopes loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the frame. Similar to last night, Panaccione came through with a clutch single up the middle to score Smith and Chris Lindmark, the latter of which represented the go-ahead run as GCU claimed a 7-6 lead.
Wagner proceeded to lace a line drive down into right field, scoring two more GCU runs and finding himself with his first triple of the season while extending the lead to 9-6.
Jarrett faced the minimum three batters in the top of the ninth to secure the win for the ‘Lopes in the first game.
For the day’s second game, freshman left-hander Andrew Naderer was given the ball on just two days of rest and tossed 4.0 scoreless innings, allowing just 2 hits and a walk with 4 strikeouts. Jorge Perez, Friday night’s starter, came in with three effective innings of relief to pick up his first career save, while Kyle Detwiler collected his first win of the season.
Panaccione, who had a knack for clutch hits throughout the regional, handed GCU an early 2-0 lead with a single up the middle to score Raidy and Kraft.
In the next inning, Smith continued his hot-hitting versus the Wildcats, plating Mendoza with GCU’s third run of the game.
Panaccione, who has plated key runs for the ‘Lopes in the final three games of the regional, picked up his third of the game with a sacrifice fly to centerfield in the top of the seventh.
Sharing the RBI’s with Panaccione, Smith extended GCU’s lead to 6-0 with an RBI bloop double into right field to score Mendoza and Swingle with just one out on the board.
The Wildcats scratched across their first run in the bottom of the eighth inning after the first two batters reached via hit by pitch and a Lindmark error, and crossed home plate via a groundout to third. Chico State added another, although by virtue of a double play in the bottom of the ninth. Perez struck out his final batter, sending the ‘Lopes into celebration upon winning the NCAA West Regional.