Point Loma Nazarene’s Baseball Team Moves Closer to National Title

by on June 7, 2022 · 0 comments

in Ocean Beach, Sports

By Editors / Times of San Diego / June 7, 2022

Every batter in the Point Loma Nazarene lineup recorded a hit Monday as the Sea Lions enjoyed a 11-3 victory over No. 3 seed Southern Arkansas.

With their 50th win of the season, No. 2 PLNU became the first team with two wins in the NCAA Division II Baseball Championship in Cary, N.C., moving within one win of a spot in the weekend best-of-three series for the national title.

The Sea Lions (50-8) also earned a breather – they don’t play again until Thursday, when they again may take on Southern Arkansas. The Muleriders (46-13) play No. 6 Rollins Wednesday for the right to move on.

PLNU, meanwhile, needs to win one of its next two games to set up a matchup for the national title against the winner of the bottom half of the bracket.

The Sea Lions had 19 hits, a season high they have reached four times this year. Not only did every batter have a hit, each of them either tallied multiple knocks or had at least one RBI.

The pitching staff dominated too, as starter Jack Gonzales, an Oceanside native, posted his 10th win of the season, holding Southern Arkansas to two runs in six innings.

He is the ninth pitcher in PacWest history to reach double-digit wins in a single season. He also struck out five, giving him 106 on the year, tied for fifth place in conference history.

“I can’t describe how tough they are,” Sea Lions coach Justin James said of his staff. “(Southern Arkansas) started to hit the ball around the park a little bit, but our pitchers don’t freak out, and you can tell because there is only one walk. This pitching staff has done that well all year long.”

For the second straight game, PLNU put four runs on the board in the first two innings of the game. The Muleriders got two of those runs back in the third inning, when Gonzales was erratic, but ultimately that was all he allowed.

Jakob Christian led off the fifth with his 13th home run and third of the postseason to boost the PLNU lead to 5-2, but the Sea Lions through eight had left 11 runners on base, leaving Southern Arkansas an opening.

After Zachary Veen retired the side in the seventh, Cole Hillier entered the game and gave up a single and double to lead off the eighth. He nearly escaped unscathed after a pair of strikeouts, but after he went ahead 0-2 on the next batter and tried to get him to chase a breaking ball in the dirt, the pitch got away, allowing a runner to cross the plate, making the score 6-3.

But PLNU all but slammed the door with a five-run ninth. Easton Waterman, with a single up the middle, became the first player in the tournament to have four hits in a game, then the big blow came from Hunter Otjen. The rightfielder cleared the bases with a double down the line in right to make the score 11-3.

“We feed off each other’s energy really well,” Waterman said. “All it takes is one guy to get it going, and once that happens it’s scary. We’ve been doing it all year. We’ve done that our first two games here, and hopefully we keep doing that.”

Hillier retired the side in order to end the game, as the Sea Lions’ three pitchers combined for nine strikeouts and one walk. Veen and Hillier also will have two days to rest, meaning everyone on the pitching staff except Gonzales will be available Thursday.

With the win, PLNU reached 50 victories in a season for the first time in the program’s 72-year history. The previous record was 48 in 2004.


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