Rollins put up runs early and often Thursday at the NCAA Division II Baseball Championship, pounding Point Loma Nazarene in the Sea Lions’ first loss, 12-4, at the Cary, N.C. tourney.
By winning its first two games in Cary, PLNU (50-9 ) earned two chances to defeat No. 6 Rollins (43-16) and advance to the final – the second comes at 10:30 a.m. Friday, a win-or-go-home contest for both teams.
Of the three schools that remain in contention at the championship, at the USA Baseball National Training Complex, PLNU and Rollins each have one loss.
No. 1 seed North Greenville, the lone undefeated team, secured a spot in Saturday’s title game by eliminating No. 8 West Chester with an 8-5 win Thursday.
Lopsided though the PLNU loss was, coach Justin James called it “kind of irrelevant whether it was a one-run loss or a bigger loss than that.”
“We got a bunch of guys on into the game that have been working hard all year and got their feet wet,” he said. “We got to be ready for the next game, which we will be.”
Rollins, a Florida school and winner of the South super regional, had one home run in each of the first three innings to jump out to an 8-0 lead. The Tars won their third-consecutive elimination game to keep their title hopes alive.
The Sea Lions scored one unearned run in the sixth and three runs in the ninth, but Jaylyn Whitehead maintained control as the Tars’ ace threw 153 pitches for a complete game.
But PLNU’s ace is still available – PacWest Pitcher of the Year Baxter Halligan could be used in the Rollins rematch or Saturday’s tournament finals.
Despite the setback, Scott Anderson said he thinks his team is “ready to win.”
“We still have a lot left in the tank,” the shortstop said. “We didn’t use a lot of our pitching, which will be crucial for helping our success tomorrow, so I think we are still in a pretty good spot to pitch well and hit well.”
Starter Dylan Miller took the loss, giving up eight runs in four-plus innings. Matthew Schlesener threw two-plus innings in relief for the Sea Lions, while Jonathan Kozasky and Andrew Meyer pitched an inning each.
Point Loma got some offense going in the ninth inning with three singles, a double and an RBI grounder, but Rollins quickly snuffed out the threat.
The Sea Lions have been one game away from elimination once before this season and won the next game, against Azusa Pacific, 5-2. PLNU is 7-2 in the postseason.