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Worthington’s big bat helps Eagles to doubleheader split

The veteran hit two home runs as the Eagles overtook PLNU in the PacWest. | Chak  Hee Lo / THE CHIMES 

Baseball continued to shatter their preseason perception by clinching at least a series split against Point Loma Nazarene University. The Eagles have momentarily overtaken PLNU for second place in the PacWest after each team won a game in their March 30 doubleheader. Biola came back to win the first contest 10-8 off a go-ahead eighth inning grand slam by senior first baseman Colton Worthington, but fell just short in game two, losing 2-1. Still, the day confirmed what the Eagles have already known for a long time.

“[Our talent] has been validated for a while,” said manager Jay Sullenger. “Now, it’s just a matter of how good are we.”

WORTHINGTON’S SLAM COMPLETES COMEBACK

The Eagles wasted no time getting on the board in game one by producing a four-run first inning highlighted by a two-run home run from senior catcher River Fawley. The Sea Lions came back in the third inning when freshman shortstop Connor Kostecka made a costly error to allow PLNU to score their first run of the series. Point Loma’s next batter hit a two-run double off junior starting pitcher Dallas Burk to cut the Eagles’ lead to one.

The Sea Lions added another three-run inning in the fifth, knocking Burk out of the game and taking a 6-4 lead. However, the Eagles loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning and drew two walks off a Point Loma to tie the game at six. PLNU retook the lead when junior relief pitcher Joey Leavitt allowed a sixth inning two-run home run, making the score 8-6 until the bottom of the eighth.

Freshman outfielder Brandon Cody reached on an error to begin the frame, then junior second baseman Joey Magro doubled and sophomore third baseman Jacob Portaro walked with one out to load the bases. Worthington launched a no-doubt grand slam to center field, giving the Eagles a 10-8 lead that would stand as senior closer Daniel Jang pitched a scoreless ninth for his 11th save of the year.

Worthington broke out of a mild slump with the big home run, which he credits to tweaking his swing earlier in the week.

“I was starting to see the ball better, and I was like, ‘This is the time. You’ve got to finally step up for these guys,’” Worthington said. “The [pitcher] blew two fastballs by me so I was like, ‘All right. You gotta battle now.’ Luckily, he gifted me a fastball down the middle and I just tried to say inside it. I was so pumped when it went out.”

SEA LIONS EDGE EAGLES FOR FIRST WIN OF SERIES

Junior pitcher Devin Sutorius received his first starting nod of the season in the nightcap, and responded with four shutout innings. The Eagles struck first in the bottom of the fourth on a solo shot from Worthington, his second homer of the day. However, PLNU immediately tied it in the bottom of the fifth on a wild pitch. The score remained tied until the top of the seventh, when sophomore reliever Josh Ludeman gave up a home run to make it 2-1 in favor of Point Loma. The Eagles had runners in scoring position in each of the final two frames, but could not score again as the seven-inning game ended in a Sea Lions victory.

“I really liked what I saw in the second game more than the first, to be honest, as far as being prepared,” Sullenger said. “We played some good, clean baseball, got a good start out of [Sutorius]... I would have liked to see us make a couple more adjustments [against the Point Loma starter], but to his credit, he executed his stuff and beat us.”

Biola now sits at 12-7 in PacWest play and can seize control of their spot in the standings with a win over Point Loma in the series finale on March 31 at 11 a.m. It would prove a far cry from the eighth-place finish predicted by the PacWest coaches’ poll before the season.

“[The poll] just kind of thought, ‘Aw, you’re not gonna be anything, you’re just the little brothers coming in,'” Worthington said. “We were out to change that… we came into this series like, ‘This is the time to step up and show them.’”

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