Point Loma Nazarene faces elimination game after loss in NCAA tournament
PLNU suffers its first setback of the Division II championship series in a 12-4 loss to Rollins. The Sea Lions play again June 10.
Point Loma Nazarene University had a relatively easy time of it in its first two games of the NCAA Division II baseball championship tournament, winning both by lopsided scores.
But things got decidedly more difficult for PLNU on June 9 as the Sea Lions lost 12-4 to Rollins at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C.
“Obviously, it didn’t go the way we wanted it to,” PLNU head coach Justin James said. “At this point, it’s kind of irrelevant if it’s a one-run loss or a bigger loss than that.”
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A win would have advanced PLNU to the championship game on Saturday, June 11. Instead, the Sea Lions (50-9) and Rollins (43-16) will return to the field for an elimination game at 10:30 a.m. PDT Friday, June 10.
The winner will play for the national title against the North Greenville-West Chester winner.
Rollins scored early and often against PLNU starting pitcher Dylan Miller (9-2), who was bidding to become the Sea Lions’ third starter with double-digit wins this season.
But the Tars stunned the sophomore right-hander with a three-run homer in the first inning, a two-run homer in the second and another three-run shot in the third.
Just like that, the Sea Lions — who won their first two games 8-1 and 11-3 — were staring at an 8-0 deficit.
It was out of character for PLNU, which went into the game with the nation’s second-lowest ERA (3.12).
“When it’s not as good on the mound as it typically is, it’s very tough,” James said. “It just wasn’t as good as it normally is, but this is baseball and that happens. Credit to them — they punished some pitches that caught too much plate. You’ve got to try to limit those going forward.”
Rollins starting pitcher Jaylen Whitehead (11-3) hung around for the finish — throwing 153 pitches to do so — despite allowing three runs in the ninth as Rollins saved its pitching for the June 10 elimination game and potentially the June 11 final.
Though PLNU suffered a setback, James pointed to the ninth-inning surge, when he emptied the Sea Lions’ bench, as a sign that they’re going to keep coming.
“I’ve been teaching these guys that confidence doesn’t waver that quickly,” James said. “They never gave up in that game. ... They’re in great spirits.”
PLNU shortstop Scott Anderson said: “We know we still have a lot left in the tank. I think we’re still in a pretty good spot to pitch pretty well, hit pretty well. ... We’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”