MOORPARK — Jeremy Starns' ho-hum season spent raking fields and chasing foul balls took a dramatic turn Saturday in the fifth game of the NCAA Division III West Regional.
In his first college appearance, the freshman from Costa Mesa High rescued a depleted Chapman pitching staff by lasting 6 2/3 innings as his teammates built a huge lead and coasted to a 20-7 victory over Cal Lutheran on Saturday at Moorpark College.
The Panthers (31-14) advance to next week's national championships in Salem, Va. Cal Lutheran finishes the season, 35-10.
Earlier Saturday, Cal Lutheran came back from a two-run deficit to win in 10 innings, 5-4, and force a fifth game. Justin Miner was scheduled to start for Chapman, but he was unable to pitch because of a collarbone injury.
Starns gave up six hits and four runs, three earned, and left with a 16-4 lead.
"If you'd have told me we'd win without Miner, I'd have said no way," Chapman Coach Rex Peters said. "I put [Starns] on the roster in case we had a Game 5, and it worked out. We rolled the dice."