The Chapman baseball team opened its season by competing in the Cactus Classic in Tucson, Arizona, winning its games against George Fox University and Linfield College and losing both Friday games against the University of La Verne and Pacific University.
The Panthers finished the weekend with a wild walk-off 20-19 win over Linfield on Saturday. They’ll be looking to carry that momentum into their Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) season opener against the University of Redlands on Feb. 17.
“Our bats were tremendous versus Linfield,” said junior outfielder Justin Stream. “The top of the order was great and so was the bottom. Our freshman catcher Joe Jimenez had some huge hits in his first career start. (Sophomore shortstop) Jarod Penniman was outstanding all weekend and he came up huge for us in the bottom of the ninth with that walk-off single (against Linfield).”
After finishing in fourth place in the SCIAC playoffs last season, the Panthers were looking to start the year on a high note, which is what they did on Feb. 9 when they beat George Fox 9-5 in the tournament opener.
“Initially, we had some butterflies at first pitch, but once the game progressed, we all settled in and pitched and swung the bats in a fashion that led us to our win,” said sophomore pitcher Matt Mogollon.
Stream, Penniman, senior right fielder John Wiehe and junior catcher Gavin Blodgett led the Panthers with two runs each. Four runs in the fifth inning helped set the Panthers up for a winning start to the weekend.
“These tournaments are a great way for us to get our feet wet in a foreign environment,” Stream said. “We also saw some teams that we could run into in the postseason.”
Blodgett, who made the SCIAC all-conference first team last season, played a significant role in the victory by scoring in the fifth and eighth innings of the game.
Friday didn’t go as smoothly for Chapman, as the Panthers lost 7-4 to La Verne in the team’s morning matchup before losing later in the evening to Pacific 10-4.
Blodgett once again came up big against La Verne to score and give the Panther a 4-3 lead in the seventh inning. However, the Panthers blanked on scoring for the final two innings as the Leopards picked up two runs in each of the final two innings to claim the win.
“Things didn’t all go as planned this weekend, but there was no lack of aggression on our part,” Stream said. “Our team competes for all 27 outs. Our game against Linfield was a great test for us, and I thought we couldn’t have fought harder in a crazy game.”
Despite winning against strong non-conference teams like George Fox and Linfield, Chapman will be looking to learn quickly from its loss to SCIAC opponent La Verne.
“Our team is well prepared for our opening series versus Redlands,” Stream said. “We are extremely excited for this season and have strong expectations for ourselves. We feel confident heading into a series against a talented club (like Redlands).”
The Panthers open their SCIAC season at home against Redlands on Friday at 2:30 p.m.
Jayson King contributed to this report.