MOORPARK — Cal Lutheran takes a robust .356 batting average into its NCAA Division III West Regional baseball opener today at 3, but that matters little.
More to the point is, how will the Kingsmen fare against the pitching of Chapman, their opponent in the best-of-five series at Moorpark College.
Cal Lutheran (33-7) and the Panthers (28-12) split two regular-season games, the Kingsmen winning, 6-0, and Chapman winning, 6-2.
However, five of Cal Lutheran's runs were bunched in the eighth inning of its victory on consecutive home runs by Brad Smith, Anthony Olden and Adam Rauch.
Otherwise, Chapman held the Kingsmen to three runs in 16 innings.
The Panthers, batting .340, performed similarly against the Kingsmen. A grand slam by Luis Garcia in the first inning of their victory was their only offense of note in either game.
Cal Lutheran left-hander Richard Bell and right-hander Marco Marquez combined on a shutout at Cal Lutheran, and right-hander Eric Kiszczak held the Panthers in check after Garcia's blast at Chapman.
Besides Garcia (.366, eight home runs), Chapman hitters include Dusty Martin (.419), Cale Shepherd (.395, seven homers) and Mike Konkol (.391, 18 doubles).
Cal Lutheran counters with catcher Tom McGee (.420, 14 homers), Olden (.412, 11 homers), Smith (.396, 21 doubles) and Rauch (.390, 21 stolen bases).
Bell (9-1, 1.85 earned-run average), Kiszczak (10-2, 2.80) and Marquez (9-1, 2.90) give the Kingsmen a strong rotation. Craig Arnold (3-0, four saves, 0.30) is the most effective reliever.
Chapman's starters are Josh LaRocca (8-3, 1.99), who beat Cal Lutheran, Justin Miner (6-3, 2.42) and Jim Brewer (7-2, 3.78).
Cal Lutheran has qualified for the regional in each of its six seasons in Division III, and won it in 1992, '93 and '96. The West is one of eight regionals and the only one with fewer than four teams.
Cal Lutheran and Chapman will meet again Friday in a doubleheader at noon. If needed, another doubleheader will be played Saturday at noon. All games will be at Moorpark.
The winner advances to the national championships May 24 in Salem, Va.