Small College Sports

Chapman sweeps its way to NCAA Division III baseball championship

Panthers beat Birmingham-Southern twice Tuesday to win it all

The Chapman dugout celebrates as Tristan Kevitch (9) heads to home plate to score a run against Washington & Jefferson during a first round game at the NCAA Division III Baseball Championship at Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids on Monday, May 31, 2019. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
The Chapman dugout celebrates as Tristan Kevitch (9) heads to home plate to score a run against Washington & Jefferson during a first round game at the NCAA Division III Baseball Championship at Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids on Monday, May 31, 2019. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — This was done the hard way.

Not quite the hardest way. Chapman University did win its its first game here last week at the NCAA Division III World Series.

Then the Panthers from Orange County, Calif., lost their second, placing them squarely on the verge of elimination. But there’s a huge difference between verge of elimination and elimination.

Chapman won three in a row to reach the championship series, including back-to-back Ws over the team that beat it way back in Game 2. One of those victories over Massachusetts-Boston was in extra innings.

Then it took two straight Tuesday at Veterans Memorial Stadium over Birmingham-Southern, 6-4 and 11-0. That’s a national championship, the school’s third, its second in D-III.

“I just think the guys were ready to go,” said catcher Joe Jimenez, one of eight Chapman players on the 15-player all-tournament team. “Yeah, it was (a lot of) games. But it’s a national championship. It’s what you play for.”

Chapman (44-12) was the highest-ranked team here, coming in at No. 6. It played flawless defense Tuesday, which played a big part in the sweep.

No errors, good pitching and timely hitting wins you a lot of games. All-American Tyler Peck threw seven strong innings in the opener, then was actually topped by Mason Collins in the nightcap.

The senior right-hander threw a complete-game six-hitter. His best move might have been after the last out was recorded, as he sprinted around the infield in a circle to stay ahead of teammates, who eventually caught him and started a celebratory dogpile.

“I’ve never had so much focus in a game,” he said.

“Dream come true,” Chapman Coach Scott Laverty said. “We fought and clawed and scratched, did everything we could to get to this point. Like I said yesterday, how humbling it is to get a chance to play for it. I’m a little speechless, just in awe that we could finish it off.”

Birmingham-Southern (42-15), which beat Coe in a super regional to get to this tournament, won its first three games here but made six errors Tuesday and basically self destructed in Game 2. Starting pitcher Hanan Mauldin took the loss, even though he didn’t give up a hit and walked just one in his six innings of work.

His back-to-back errors gave Chapman a run in the sixth, with two runs in the seventh and eight in the eighth putting things away. Ten of Chapman’s 11 runs were unearned.

Had Birmingham-Southern won Game 2, a winner-take-all third game would have been played Wednesday. Zero need for that.

“We had one bad day here,” said BSC Coach Jan Weisberg. “And we picked the wrong day to have it.”

Chapman first baseman Henry Zeisler was named tournament MVP. He went 14-for-26 in six games, with 10 runs scored.

This was the first year the D-III finals were held in Cedar Rapids. It was lightly attended, with the closest of the eight schools here (Webster University of Missouri) a four-hour drive away.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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