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NAIA DISTRICT 3 BASEBALL PLAYOFFS : Cal Lutheran an Inning Away From Confrontation With Azusa Pacific

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Cal Lutheran will have to post three victories today to win the championship of the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics District 3 baseball tournament at Azusa Pacific University.

The Kingsmen were leading Cal Baptist, 9-5, when the game was suspended Friday in the top of the ninth because of darkness. Cal Lutheran will have the bases loaded with two out when play resumes this morning at 11.

Yet were it not for some heroics from right fielder Blake Babki in a second-round game against The Master’s earlier in the day, the Kingsmen might have been making a trip home instead.

With Cal Lutheran (29-14) leading Master’s, 3-2, with two out in the ninth inning, Babki gunned down Rick Brady at the plate when he attempted to score from second on Sheldon Sparks’ single.

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“I was hoping that the ball would get hit to me,” said Babki, who caught the ball on one bounce before firing to the plate. “I wanted to make a play. I knew I was going to get the guy.”

In addition to the play preserving the victory, Cal Lutheran Coach Rich Hill felt that it gave the Kingsmen momentum heading into the Cal Baptist game.

“It was a great throw,” Hill said. “Not just in terms of the physical mechanics, but in terms of the timing to end the game. It lifted us.”

Should third-seeded Cal Lutheran emerge victorious against Cal Baptist, the second-seeded team, the Kingsmen would face No. 1 Azusa Pacific at 12:30 p.m.

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The Kingsmen, who lost to Cal Baptist, 10-2, in the opening round Thursday, would have to defeat Azusa Pacific (34-10) twice to win the title of the double-elimination tournament.

The Cougars defeated Cal Baptist, 1-0, in the other semifinal to advance.

“We’re not even going to look ahead to the championship until this game is over,” Hill said. “It’s going to be hard to win three games in one day.”

On Friday, Cal Lutheran was the recipient of 12 walks and four errors against Cal Baptist (35-17).

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Trailing, 4-3, in the fourth inning, the Kingsmen took advantage of four walks, an error and two wild pitches to score three runs and take a 6-4 lead.

Cal Lutheran extended its lead with two more runs in the sixth.

In the ninth--after three walks, a forceout a and a flyout--Bryan Lovelace was forced home on a bases-loaded walk to increase the Cal Lutheran lead to 9-5.

Peter Washington belted his 11th homer, a two-run shot, to give the Kingsmen a 2-0 lead in the first inning.

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Kevin O’Neil (5-3) picked up the win against Master’s (26-22), and Mike Rooney, a junior transfer from Cal State Northridge, entered in the sixth to earn his first save.

The Kingsmen scored all of their runs in the second on singles by Manny Alvarez and Bob Farber.


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