By David Carter/GCU Staff
Riding the momentum of a six-game win streak, the GCU Club Baseball Division 2 (D2) team couldn’t keep the roll going, finishing 3rd at the National Club Baseball Association (NCBA) 2019 Pacific Regional Tournament in Lancaster, California Saturday.
Entering the four-team tournament as the #3 seed, the Lopes’ opener was no easy foe, since #2 seed California Miramar University- Montebello (CMU) wound up the tournament champion, clinching a berth to the NCBA D2 World Series. GCU lost to CMU in Round 1, 13-3, dropping the Lopes to Saturday’s elimination round.
In the elimination semifinals, the Lopes faced a familiar foe: Pacific South Division opponent: Arizona State University. The Lopes stayed alive by scoring two in the bottom of the final inning – thanks to two walks, two bunt singles, and a passed ball to force in the game-winner- to pull off a 4-3 win and send ASU home. Lopes’ pitcher Kasey Tucker held down the Sun Devils, pitching a complete-game three-hitter.
“I definitely didn’t want to go out with two straight losses,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Fred Speck on the ASU victory. “It was the first Division 2 regional playoff win in our club’s history, so it felt good to get over that hump and still have a chance to advance.”
The win set up a rematch of the opening round against CMU, who lost their chance to head to the championship round on a walkoff home run by top-seeded Stanford University Saturday to tag the Fightin’ Falcons with their first tournament loss. Once again, the Lopes fell behind early, trailing, 5-0, after 2 innings, and never got their footing offensively. An eight-run CMU 5th inning mercy-ruled the Lopes, 13-0, and sealed their third-place finish.
“The weekend could have been better, since we were short three key players not being able to make the trip,” said Lopes’ Division 1 Head Coach Rich Warnol, who helped Speck coach Team 2 during the tournament. “We ran into a good hitting team in CMU, and we had a good effort, but could not keep up with the players we had missing. We just needed to pitch really well and not make any mistakes, and our offense was a little flat.”
What does the weekend do for the future of the program?
“We have built a program with a solid reputation that returning and new players will want to be a part of,” said Speck. “We plan on going to regionals every year, and anything short of that would be a disappointment. We just need to keep getting quality players in the program, make sure we prepare them for the upcoming season properly, and we should be back in Lancaster again next year.”
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