Baseball sinks Sea Lions in duel for the ages
Eagles only needed one run to get a huge conference win over Point Loma. | Chak Hee Lo / THE CHIMES
Whereas Major League Baseball’s opening day would have normally pushed an NCAA Division II contest to the baseball backburner, Biola and Point Loma Nazarene University delivered as good a game as any playing out across professional stadiums on March 29. The Eagles won the first of their four-game PacWest tilt against the Sea Lions by a score of 1-0 as senior starting pitcher Micah Beyer narrowly performed his freshman counterpart Garrett Irvin of PLNU. Senior shortstop Ricky Perez provided the winning run with a two-out RBI single in the eighth, and senior closer Daniel Jang retired the side in the ninth for his PacWest-leading 10th save of the season.
“Bro, we grind,” Perez said. “We don’t ever go into a game knowing it’s going to be a close game [but] we go into a game [believing] we’re going to win the game. All these guys believed in each other through the ninth inning [today].”
Perez would not have had the chance to play hero late if not for one of Beyer’s best starts ever. The Eagles’ ace threw a career-high 111 pitches through eight shutout frames, striking out 11 while allowing seven hits and two walks. Despite feeling under the weather, Beyer did not get physically fatigued until after coming out of the game. His mind, though, was another story.
“Just mentally, getting through was a little tougher,” Beyer said. “You’re just not able to relax at all throughout this type of game.”
He had no margin for error as Irvin matched him pitch for pitch most of the way. PLNU’s young left-hander did not even allow a hit until senior outfielder Phil Knapp legged out a bunt single in the third. Beyer proved a tad more shaky early on, but stranded six baserunners over his first four innings to keep the game scoreless.
Point Loma threatened in the fifth with back-to-back singles to open the frame, but Beyer recovered by getting a flyout to center field and two straight ground balls to first base, getting a huge cheer from his dugout as he walked off the mound.
“[Beyer] doesn’t normally show a lot of emotion, but you saw at least two fist pumps in him today,” said manager Jay Sullenger. “Leading into this game, I kind of gave him a hard time since he was going to be facing a freshman, [like,] ‘What are you going to do about that?’ And Micah came out and responded.”
THIRD RALLY PROVES THE CHARM
In the bottom of the sixth, Knapp led off with another infield hit, then a Perez sac bunt moved him over to second. Some shoddy baserunning cost the Eagles, however, as Knapp was forced out at third on a fielder’s choice and Irvin picked off sophomore third baseman Jacob Portaro as he was trying to steal second. Senior first baseman Colton Worthington doubled to lead off the seventh, but Irvin struck out the next two batters and got senior designated hitter River Fawley to fly out to the warning track in deep center field.
“Baseball is days like this, when you get two guys on the mound who just control the pace of the game,” Sullenger said. “[Irvin] did a fabulous job… you don’t see that from many guys, certainly not that many freshmen.”
Junior second baseman Joey Magro led off the eighth with a walk and advanced to second on a bunt. Sullenger sent up freshman Tyler Piston to pinch hit for Knapp, and the move almost worked when Piston hit the first pitch he saw hard—right at PLNU’s third baseman. The Eagles’ last chance came down to Perez, who laced Irvin’s 111th pitch into left field, easily scoring Magro.
“I got ahead in the count [and was] looking fastball,” Perez said. “[Irvin] was just throwing me a lot of fastballs throughout the game, I was surprised he came back with it. I put a pretty good swing on it.”
The win moves the Eagles to just two games back of the Sea Lions, who currently sit at second behind number one ranked Azusa Pacific University in the PacWest standings. Biola could tie PLNU if the Eagles sweep their March 30 doubleheader. Games start at 12 p.m.