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Texas Lutheran Bumped from NCAA Baseball Race
May 22, 2005

Courtesy TLU Sports Information

ORANGE, Calif. ----- Texas Lutheran won its first two NCAA Division III Baseball West Regional games in convincing fashion, but were knocked out of national title contention with a pair of losses to #2-ranked Chapman in Saturday's championship games (May 22).

The ASC champion Bulldogs ended their season at 35-10 after taking back-to-back 7-3 and 8-0 losses to Chapman -- their first losing efforts in regional play. The Panthers (36-9), the 2003 national champion, received back-to-back complete game performances from Scott Akamine and Billy Sulentor to oust #17-ranked TLU. After Akamine was touched up for three runs in the first inning of game one, the senior right-hander and Sulentor, a senior left-hander, tossed a combined 17 consecutive shutout innings against the Bulldogs.

Texas Lutheran advanced to Saturday’s championship games with a 9-6 win Thursday over #11 Linfield and an 11-5 win Friday over #23 LaVerne. Chapman lost its opening game of the Regional but battled back to win four consecutive elimination games. Chapman defeated Linfield and LaVerne on Friday and had to beat TLU twice on Saturday to advance to the national championship round in Appleton, Wis.

“We’re very disappointed at this time having advanced to this point and being one win away from the Division III College World Series, but I think that after some time to reflect we’ll be able to appreciate what a special year we had,” said Bill Miller, Texas Lutheran head baseball coach. “Our team did something that no Texas Lutheran team had ever done before in getting to this point. I couldn’t be prouder of the guys and the way they played this year.”

In both of the Chapman wins Saturday, the first inning was the difference. Chapman scored five runs in the first inning of game one off TLU starter Adam Enloe. The Panthers started game two with three runs off starter Brian Wallace.

After trailing 5-0 in the first inning of game one, Texas Lutheran put three runs on the board in the bottom of the first. Aaron Crais delivered an RBI sacrifice fly, and Chris Dusablon and Brett Cannon each delivered RBI singles. The Bulldogs would get no closer than 5-3. Chapman put two more runs on the board in the top of the second to give Akamine all the run support he would need. TLU reliever Daniel Besa relieved Enloe with two outs in the first inning and pitched the remaining 8-1/3 innings. Besa scattered eight hits and allowed only two earned runs.

Heading into game two, Besa’s pitching work gave the Bulldogs’ hope since TLU had the arms of Brian Wallace, Jeff Paras and Austin Yager available for duty in game two. But TLU promptly trailed 3-0 in game two and fell behind 6-0 after six innings. Those six runs were more than enough for Sulentor, who limited the Bulldogs to five hits and did not allow a runner past second base.

Against LaVerne on Friday, Crais smacked his fifth home run of the postseason and his 17th homer of the season, going 4-for-4 with four runs scored and two RBI for the day. The solo blast in the fourth inning was Crais’ second homer of the regional tournament. Dusablon drove in four runs and was 2-for-4 with a run scored, including a two-run triple in the seventh inning to give TLU a 9-3 lead. Texas Lutheran starter Kyle Newman (8-1) pitched 7-2/3 innings and struck out eight, but fought control problems early in the game and tallied seven walks. For the game Newman surrendered five hits and three earned runs. Austin Yager pitched the final 1-1/3 innings for the Bulldogs.

Texas Lutheran opened its first NCAA Division III postseason tournament with a 9-6 win vs. Linfield to advance on the winner's side of the bracket. Crais hit his 16th home run of the season -- a three-run blast in the fifth -- to put TLU ahead 5-1. Paras recorded his school-record eighth save and Matt Hunn (10-0) registered the win. Linfield (33-8) started its comeback with four runs in the seventh inning, then loaded the bases in the ninth off Paras. The Bulldogs’ closer recorded the final out on a fly ball to right field.

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