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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Cal Lutheran Pinched by Chapman

Baseball: Fallon comes off the bench to hit home run in ninth inning that beats Kingsmen, 6-5.

April 30, 1998|FERNANDO DOMINGUEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

THOUSAND OAKS — The atmosphere was that of a playoff game. There were unusual plays. Heated words were exchanged afterward between the teams.

Just another baseball game between Chapman and Cal Lutheran.

The latest installment, a 6-5 victory by Chapman on Wednesday at Cal Lutheran, lived up to the usual fanfare and more.

"Whenever we play them, they play the game of their lives," said Marty Slimak, Cal Lutheran's coach.

Chapman (26-10), an NCAA Division III independent trying to catch the eye of the selection committee for the West Regional on May 14-16, might have done just that by giving the Kingsmen (24-10) fits for the second consecutive day.

This time, the Panthers got it done with a two-out, two-run pinch home run by Josh Fallon in the ninth to sweep the two-game, home-and-home series from Cal Lutheran. Chapman won the game on Tuesday, 3-1.

"We gave the game away," Slimak said.

The Kingsmen might have jeopardized their chances to be invited to the revamped regional that is no longer limited to California schools and consists of four teams, including possibly two or more from Texas.

Cal Lutheran, ranked No. 5 in the nation, does not get an automatic berth despite winning the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with a 19-2 record. Last year, the Kingsmen were eliminated by Chapman in the five-game regional, 3-2.

Selections won't be announced until May 10.

"Who knows what's going to happen," Slimak said. "Without a doubt, us and [Chapman] should be [invited]."

In the meantime, the Kingsmen, who finish the season with games at Division I Cal State Northridge on Saturday and Sunday, can be haunted by the memories of the one they let slip away Wednesday.

Cal Lutheran took a 3-0 lead in the fourth on a two-run homer by Brian Malchow and a solo shot by Adam Rauch, both off right-hander Richard Torres.

But the Panthers got to starter Adam Springston in the sixth and pulled even, 3-3, on three hits and two errors. Cleanup hitter Luis Garcia, who finished with three hits, started the rally with a leadoff home run to left field.

Rauch's homer leading off the seventh, his fourth of the season, gave Cal Lutheran a 4-3 lead and chased Torres.

The Panthers tied the score, 4-4, in the eighth when Adam Olow scored on a wild pitch by Brock Benson (4-3) but Cal Lutheran moved ahead, 5-4, in the bottom of the inning when Clint Britt had an infield single and later scored from third on Clint Bevins' wild pitch.

Benson retired the first two batters in the ninth before walking pinch-hitter Nick Plancich. Fallon followed with a line drive over the right-center field fence.

Eric Hayden (2-1) was aided by a peculiar play in the ninth to secure the victory.

Hayden hit Richard Hernandez with a pitch to open the inning but made a nice throw to second base to force Hernandez on a bunt by pinch-hitter Ryan Yoshiwara. The play turned into a double play when Yoshiwara walked off first base to retrieve his helmet without calling time.

The game also featured a Chapman batter called out because of interference for running inside the first-base line after a bunt and being hit by a throw from third baseman Raudel Flores, nullifying a run.

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