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."
Chapman simply rolled, scoring in every inning but the eighth. Cal Lutheran scored two in the top of the first, but the Panthers answered with five in the bottom of the inning.
Dusty Martin had four hits and Cale Shepherd drove in six runs with a home run, a double and a single to lead Chapman's 20-hit attack.
Cal Lutheran won the first game when Scott Foli scored on a single by Eric Buben in the 10th inning against left-handed reliever Jason Besson (2-1).
After pitching 5 2/3 innings Friday, Cal Lutheran's Marco Marquez (10-1) came back to pitch another 5 2/3, giving up two runs.