Baxter Halligan pitches Point Loma Nazarene into national championship round
PLNU advances with 2-0 win over Rollins; Sea Lions need two victories over North Greenville to claim NCAA Division II title.
If all had gone according to plan, Point Loma Nazarene University would have handed the ball to senior left-handed pitcher Baxter Halligan to secure the NCAA Division II baseball championship.
Instead, PLNU head coach Justin James had to call on his ace a game early just have a chance to keep playing.
On June 10, Halligan did what he has done all season, keeping PLNU’s championship dream alive with a 2-0 win over Rollins that advanced the Sea Lions to the final round later in the day at the USA National Baseball Training Complex in Cary, N.C.
PLNU (51-9) needs two victories over North Greenville (53-10) to take the title. The first of what the Sea Lions hope is a two-game series is scheduled for 4 p.m. PDT. If PLNU prevails, a winner-take-all game would be played Saturday, June 11.
North Greenville advanced to the championship round with three wins in three games, putting the Crusaders in the enviable position of having two chances to win once and claim the crown.
Two victories by PLNU would make the Sea Lions the first local baseball team to win an NCAA championship. UC San Diego played for the Division II title in 2010 and 2017, finishing runner-up both times.
Halligan (14-2) scattered four hits, struck out five and walked two over six shutout innings to win his school-record 14th game of the season.
Teammates Zach Veen and Cole Hillier completed the shutout over the final three innings, holding the Rollins lineup without a run a day after the Tars beat PLNU 12-4.
The Sea Lions’ offense was blunted early in the game by double plays in each of the first three innings, though they did push across a run in the second inning on Jack Malone’s sacrifice bunt.
PLNU added an insurance run in the seventh inning on shortstop Scott Anderson’s sacrifice fly.
Halligan never pitched to more than four batters in an inning and didn’t allow a runner to reach second base until walking the first two hitters in the bottom of the seventh.
James reached into the bullpen for Veen, who got two flyouts and a strikeout to keep Rollins in check.
Hillier pitched the last two innings. The Tars put two runners on base in both instances, only to be denied by the Sea Lions’ closer.