Kingsmen Advance to Championship Game for Third Straight Year; Defeat Panthers 8-3 for Chance at Back-To-Back Titles

Photo credit: Mariah Zermeno
Photo credit: Mariah Zermeno

ORANGE, Calif. — Cal Lutheran baseball is playing for a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Tournament Championship for the third straight season. 

It was a masterful performance as Luke Wechsler pitched 8.0 innings with 10 strikeouts, Brendan Durfee, Zach Lafata, and Max Heverly had two RBI each, and the Kingsmen defeated Chapman 8-3 on Friday afternoon. 

The No. 4 team in the SCIAC tournament, the Kingsmen were also No. 4 last year when they won, are back in the championship game. The Kingsmen look to repeat and have two chances to do so. With the win today, the Kingsmen need just one win to claim back-to-back SCIAC Tournament Championships. They play La Verne on Saturday at 2:30 pm. 

Wechsler was dominant on the mound from start to finish and never waivered. He recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts, while allowing just three hits and three earned runs. Clay Rickerman came in for the final inning and closed out the game. 

Sean Blandino, Durfee and Heverly drew two walks each. Durfee hit a solo shot, Blandino had a double, and Lafata and Josh Quinn both had sacrifice hits. 

The Kingsmen got on the board first and had an early lead. The bats were active immediately as Blandino led off the game with a double. With the bases loaded, and no outs, Durfee got the first BRI of the day as he walked. During the very next at-bat, Lafata scored on a wild pitch and the game was on. 

The Panthers chipped away at the lead, scoring one run in the second and third, and tied the game at 2-2. The Kingsmen fired back in the fourth. It was déjà vu as Blandino walked up to the plate with bases loaded. He gave his team the lead and drew a walk for a RBI. Lafata was next and made the Panthers pay for the walk. He hit a 2-RBI single to right and the Kingsmen were up 5-2. 

Wechsler faced a tough task as he tried to corral the Panthers. His first real test came in the fifth. After already getting a run back, the Panthers had the bases loaded. The Kingsmen and Wechsler got out of the inning with a ground ball. 

After a clean sixth from both teams, the Kingsmen got a tack-on run in the seventh. Durfee hit a solo shot in the top of the seventh to put his squad up 6-3. The Kingsmen added two more insurance runs in the ninth as Heverly singled home Lafata and Blandino.

Rickerman took over on the mound in the ninth and did the rest. The Kingsmen head back to La Verne on Saturday and go for back-to-back SCIAC Tournament Championships. 

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