ORANGE, Calif. - The reigning SCIAC Postseason Tournament champions return to the diamond in exactly one week as they open their season at the Cactus Classic in Tucson, Ariz. Fresh off the tournament title, the Panthers were recently picked to win the SCIAC in a poll of the conference coaches.
After a historic run to the SCIAC Championship title in which the Panthers completed a nine-run comeback to defeat Redlands, Chapman fell in the Regional round of the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers will look to five core returning starters to lead them back to the SCIAC Tournament this year.
The top of the batting order returns for Chapman in 2019. Last year's leadoff hitter and senior Alex Tsuruda posted big numbers, batting .364 with 23 RBIs, nine doubles and three home runs. Junior Aaron Wong, who batted in the No. 2 spot and started at second base, led Chapman with 219 plate appearances in 2018, missing just one game of the season.
Senior Tristan Kevitch led the Panthers with .382 average in the three-hole, tallying a team-high 12 doubles and seven home runs. Kevitch ended his junior campaign with a spot on the All-SCIAC First Team and a D3baseball.com All-Region Third Team selection.
Chapman also welcomes back senior Jarod Penniman and junior Joe Jimenez. Penniman earned a spot on the All-SCIAC Second Team after posting a .343 average, 31 RBIs and nine doubles. As the Panthers' starting shortstop, Penniman assisted on 128 putouts, turned 29 double plays and posted a .947 fielding percentage. Jimenez returns behind the plate after tallying two home runs and 12 RBIs in the 2018 season.
Back on the mound for the Panthers is SCIAC Tournament MVP, All-SCIAC Second Teamer and D3baseball.com and ABCA All-Region Second Teamer Tyler Peck. The senior returns for his final season after a breakout junior campaign in which he tallied a team-high 98 strikeouts in just 75.1 innings pitched. Peck tallied five double-digit strikeout performances, including a 14-strikeout complete game in which the Panthers shutout Pomona-Pitzer.
Seniors Mason Collins and Jonathan Hernandez also return to the mound for the Panthers after combining for 85.2 innings pitched in the 2018 season – mostly out of the bullpen. Hernandez struck out 40 batters, while Collins tallied three saves and combined with Peck for the Panthers' first no-hitter since 1973. Both seniors will look to earn a spot in the starting rotation in their final seasons.
Junior Austin Merrill and sophomore Cody Turner look to lead the Panthers out of the bullpen. Turner posted a team-best four saves with 27 strikeouts and a 1.77 ERA. Freshman Ben Ziv will be a new face on the mound. The 6-2, 205 pound right-handed pitcher looks to see significant innings on the mound in his first year.
Last year's graduating class accounted for nearly half of the RBIs for the year. Head coach Scott Laverty and his staff will look for the next generation of Chapman players to fill the holes left by the graduating class of 2018.
by Katie Bell
Sports Information Assistant