Chapman baseball National Championship bound

Jonathan Hernandez throws a pitch.
Jonathan Hernandez (photo courtesy of Larry Radloff)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Calif. – With their second 8-4 win over the University of Massachusetts Boston Beacons, the 2019 Chapman University baseball team is headed to the National Championship series. Senior Jonathan Hernandez stepped up for the Panthers, moving to 10-0 on the season with an eight-inning gem.

Hernandez allowed just three earned runs while striking out five batters. With his 10th victory of the season this afternoon, he becomes just the fifth pitcher in school history to hit double digit wins with no losses in a single season.

In typical Panther fashion, Chapman rallied from down 2-0 to pull back and win the game. The Beacons smacked a two-run homer in the top of the first to get on the board early. A 1-2-3 inning from Hernandez in the top of the second lit a fire under the lineup as they came up to the plate in the bottom half of the inning.

Sophomore Henry Zeisler drew a walk to lead off the inning, followed by a hit-and-run single from junior Joe Jimenez that advanced Zeisler to third. After Jimenez advanced to second on a wild pitch, sophomore Mack Cheli stepped into the box with runners in scoring position and no outs. The designated hitter hit a chopper to the shortstop, scoring Zeisler from third and beating out the throw to keep zero outs on the board.

A foul out brought freshman Drew Littwin up with runners on first and third and one out. The rookie hit a sacrifice fly to right field, allowing Jimenez to tag up and score on a throwing error from the right fielder to tie the game at 2-2.

A scoreless third and fourth innings from Hernandez led to the Panthers breaking open the game with a couple of three-spots in the fourth and fifth innings. With two on and two outs in the bottom of the fourth, junior Aaron Wong tripled to deep center field, scoring both runners and giving Chapman the lead. Senior Alex Tsuruda stepped up next and doubled down the left field line to bring the second baseman home and put Chapman up by three runs.

The Panthers did the same thing in the fifth to extend their lead to 8-2. Senior Tristan Kevitch and Zeisler led off the inning with a couple of singles to put runners on the corners for Cheli. A balk allowed Zeisler to score a run and moved Kevitch to second with the big hitter up to bat. Cheli saw a pitch he liked and smacked a triple to right center, scoring the second run of the inning. On the next pitch, Cheli got the sign to steal home and dove across home plate to score the Panthers' eighth and final run of the game.

The Beacons added one run in the sixth and another in the eighth but could not string enough offense together to make the comeback.

Sophomore Cody Turner closed out the game in the ninth inning, striking out a batter and producing a couple of fly outs to left field to end the game and send the Panthers to the National Championship series.

Cheli, Kevitch and freshman Brad Shimabuku each tallied two hits in the effort. Wong and Cheli led the squad with two RBIs apiece and Zeisler crossed home plate twice to score a couple of runs.

The Chapman defense also turned a couple of crucial double plays. In the top of the third with one out and runners on first and second, the Panthers turned a 3-6-1 double play to end the inning. Zeisler fielded the ground ball at first, tossed it to Penniman at short to get the runner out, who then flipped it back to Hernandez to get the batter out at first. Fast forward to the top of the sixth with one out and runners on second and third, Zeisler snagged a line drive and stepped on the back to end the inning.

Chapman returns to Perfect Game Field to take on Birmingham Southern College in the first game of the best-of-three National Championship Series tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. CT. The second game will be played 45 minutes after the completion of game one.

by Katie Bell
Sports Information Assistant

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