A college baseball team with an earned-run average under three usually is guaranteed of having a successful season. A team ERA of 1.86 is almost unheard of.
Unless you are the Chapman Panthers. Their dominant pitching staff is the chief reason they are playing in the NCAA Division III World Series beginning tonight against Wisconsin Oshkosh in Appleton, Wis.
None of Chapman's pitchers has an ERA above four. Ryan France (9-1, 1.39), Jairo Ochoa (8-1, 1.77) and Jeff Green (8-0, 2.00) are the starters, while Scott Akamine (4-5, 2.21) has provided great versatility.
"We do have a very talented group," said first-year Coach Tom Tereschuk. "Our pitchers take a lot of pride being part of this staff. They feel a responsibility to live up to what the other guys are doing."
Chapman (34-11) advanced by coming out of the losers' bracket to win the West Regional on its home field last week. Oshkosh (36-6), which won titles in 1985 and 1994, is led by outfielder Vince Mancuso (.483 average, 17 homers) and pitcher Jordan Timm (11-0, 2.09)
Tereschuk, who led Villa Park High to two Southern Section titles in four years as coach, said he felt no pressure to maintain the standards set by his predecessor, Rex Peters. Peters was 258-130-2 at Chapman over nine seasons, before taking the job at UC Davis last year.
"I really think it became a non-issue early on," Tereschuk said. "Of course, being successful helps smooth any transition."
Biola begins play in the NAIA World Series today against Bellevue, Neb. The Eagles (41-15) are seeded fourth in the 10-team double-elimination tournament at Lewiston, Idaho. Bellevue (45-20) is seeded fifth.
Sophomore shortstop Sam Orr leads Biola, which has made the finals in two of the last three years. Orr is hitting .414 with a school-record 24 home runs and 72 RBIs.
USC is working on a streak of 10 consecutive appearances in the NCAA baseball playoffs. That streak could be in danger this weekend if the Trojans (28-25, 11-10) don't win a key three-game series at Washington to end the regular season.
"We are the proverbial bubble team," said Coach Mike Gillespie, whose Trojans suffered a 6-5 loss to Fresno State on Tuesday. "I would think with one or two wins, we would be in. I also think that since the ACC, SEC and Big 12 will have five, six and seven bids, the Pac-10 would certainly be a conference that gets five bids."
UCLA three-time NCAA champion distance runner Lena Nilsson will run the 1,500 at the Prefontaine Classic on Saturday in Eugene, Ore.
* USC at Washington, 6:30 tonight, 1 p.m. Saturday-Sunday -- A berth in the NCAA tournament figures to be on the line. Washington (37-16, 12-9) has the inside track with a better overall record, but the Trojans (28-25, 11-10) have played the second-toughest schedule in the nation.
* San Diego at Pepperdine, 3 today, 1 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday (if necessary) -- The teams meet again in the best-of-three West Coast Conference championship series, with the Waves trying to avenge last year's defeat against San Diego in three games.
* UCLA at Washington State, 6 tonight, 1 p.m. Saturday, noon Sunday -- With speculation over Gary Adams' job status in the air, these could be the final games for the longtime Bruin coach. UCLA (26-30, 9-12) needs a victory to avoid a third consecutive seventh-place finish.
* NCAA championships at Stillwater, Okla., 5 a.m. PDT Tuesday-Friday -- After winning the West Regional, ninth-ranked UCLA is looking to make an impact in the finals since finishing in a tie for eighth in 1998. USC will make its first appearance in three years, while Pepperdine's Michael Putnam will compete as an individual.