Eager offense nabs SCIAC wins for baseball

Junior pitcher Justin Hanks throws against La Verne during Friday’s 1-0 home win. Photo by Adam Ottke

Junior pitcher Justin Hanks throws against La Verne during Friday’s 1-0 home win. Photo by Adam Ottke

Spurred by home runs from senior center fielder Tyler Surnbrock and junior first baseman Mark Saatzer, the baseball team’s offense exploded in an 11-3 road victory against the University of La Verne Saturday afternoon.

Chapman split the two additional games of the series, winning a pitching duel 1-0 at home Friday and losing 4-1 to close out the series Saturday. With the weekend’s efforts, Chapman pulled into fourth place for SCIAC play.

It was an especially exciting win for the Saatzer, who grabbed his first home run of the year for the Panthers.

“It was awesome. He left the pitch middle-in and I was able to take advantage,” Saatzer said.

Opening the series, both Chapman (5-6, 4-2) and La Verne struggled offensively.  Saatzer manufactured all of the offense the Panthers would need, driving in junior left fielder Adam Velez from second in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Saatzer, who went 2-4, was the only Panther with more than one hit.

Junior pitcher Justin Hanks pitched nearly eight shutout innings, striking out four and surrendering six hits before junior pitcher Taber Watson came in to shut the door on La Verne (6-4, 3-3). Watson completed the shutout for the remaining inning, striking out one hitter.

“[Hanks] did a great job,” Surnbrock said. “You’re not going to score 11 runs every day and we did not give [Hanks] a lot of run support. He just went out and competed.”

In the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, Chapman had no trouble getting its offense on track, lighting up the scoreboard with 11 runs on 14 hits. The Panthers didn’t wait long to heat up either, scoring three runs in the first frame off of a three-run home run by Saatzer, driving in Velez and sophomore shortstop Greg Dillon.

The Leopards answered with three runs of their own in the first inning. But after the hiccup in the first inning, freshman pitcher Braden Riddle settled in to toss seven consecutive shutout innings and allowed just three hits the rest of the way.

“We just had great at-bats. We didn’t go to the plate and try to do too much and we didn’t chase pitches out of the zone. We were really smart in the box,” Surnbrock said.

Surnbrock hit a solo bomb in the fourth inning to break the 3-3 tie and from there it was all Chapman, scoring four runs in the fifth and three runs in the eighth. Velez and Dillon each scored three times and Saatzer drove in five runs to lead the Panthers in the rout. Freshman pitcher Matt Molnar appeared in relief, striking out two in the ninth inning.

“We are getting better and better,” said head coach Tom Tereschuk. “We have been getting great pitching performances by Hanks, Riddle and Watson out of the pen. We just need to stay focused on improving.”

La Verne salvaged the series with a 4-1 win to conclude the series.

Chapman’s lone run of the finale came off a throwing error by La Verne second baseman Nick Bergara that allowed Velez to score. On the mound for Chapman, freshman pitcher Matt Smith gave up four runs on seven hits over the course of four innings.

The Panthers will continue SCIAC play with the start of a three-game conference series at California Lutheran University Friday at 2:30 p.m.

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