After a strong offensive start and an exhilarating finish on the defensive end, the No. 15 Cal Lutheran baseball team calmed the Tornados of Concordia (Texas) 6-3 to open the 2017 NCAA Division III West Regional hosted by Tyler, Texas on Thursday afternoon.
With a three run lead entering the ninth inning, closer Miguel Salud entered the game looking for his ninth save of the season and got just that with a sensational triple play from shortstop Austin Kay. After the Tornados threatened with runners on first and second and nobody out, the third batter of the inning hit a line drive that Kay caught, proceeded to step on second and throw to first to give CLU its first regional victory since 2014.
Starting pitcher Marshall Pautsch (8-2) was phenomenal on the mound for the Violet and Gold, tossing eight innings while limiting Concordia to just five hits and three runs while striking out 10. It is the second game in three starts that the senior righty has struck out double figures and now has 30 strikeouts in his last three games.
Offensively, CLU jumped on Tornados starter Justin Traxler with two runs in the first inning and three more in the second to take an early 5-0 lead.
Max Weinstein drew a leadoff walk to get things going in the opening frame and Sinjin Todd followed with a line drive single to left field on the first pitch he saw. With two on, Gabe Gunter went the opposite way with a double to left to bring home Weinstein before Jimmy Jauregui hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Todd.
In the second, the Kingsmen bats stayed hot as Cheynne Giles opened the inning with a double to right and scored on a Trey Saito single that rolled through the left side. After a sacrifice bunt from Kay, Todd drove in Saito with his second hit in as many innings and Jauregui came through with another RBI after singling to left to score Todd.
Concordia scraped a run across in the third inning to halt Pautch's scoreless inning streak at 21 and added two more after a CLU error in the sixth to make it a 5-3 ball game. Pautsch, however, settled back into a groove in the seventh and eighth to shift the momentum back to the Kingsmen.
At the plate, Jauregui went 3-for-3 with two RBIs to lead the way while the offense as a whole racked up 13 total hits. Weinstein, Todd and Gunter tallied two hits apiece while Clark, Giles, Saito and Kay added one each.
Traxler (4-4) was tagged with the loss after allowing five runs and 12 hits through 7.2 innings.
Cal Lutheran (32-10), the No. 2 seed, will play the winner of No. 3 Centenary (La.) and No. 4 Linfield (Ore.) at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow, May 19 at Irwin Field.