John Becker’s hot streak went into hibernation, but it didn’t die.
The Cal Lutheran first baseman had 11 hits, four home runs and 14 runs batted in his previous seven games, but the team hadn’t played for 12 days.
When the Kingsmen took the field Friday for the first game of the NCAA Division III West Regionals against UC San Diego, Becker’s swing was just as he left it.
He doubled and homered, driving in all of Cal Lutheran’s runs in a 5-3 victory.
The winner of this weekend’s best-of-five series will advance to the Division III championships next week in Battle Creek, Mich. The series continues today with a doubleheader starting at noon.
Becker drove in two runs with a two-out double in the third and three in the fifth with his 11th home run .
Becker’s blast gave the seventh-ranked Kingsmen (30-6-1) a 5-0 lead and put the team well on its way to its third victory in three games over three seasons against Ryan Flanagan (8-3), the Tritons’ ace left-hander.
Meantime, Cal Lutheran starter Sam Arroyo (9-1) cruised through the San Diego batting order.
The senior right-hander pitched eight brilliant innings, then staggered through the ninth to record his fourth complete game.
Arroyo gave up only four hits through the first eight innings, his only lapse being a two-run home run in the fifth by San Diego left fielder Craig Birk.
But Arroyo wore down in the final inning. He retired the first two batters when Scott Sebbo made a diving stop at third base and center fielder Jason Wilson caught a screaming line drive, but the fourth-ranked Tritons (28-5) then had three consecutive hits.
One run scored and runners were at first and third with Birk, the potential winning run, coming to the plate.
“I came out and told him, ‘I’m not pulling you so you better get this guy out,’ ” Cal Lutheran Coach Marty Slimak said.
Arroyo induced a popup to second base. Perhaps as important as the victory, Arroyo was efficient with his pitches, meaning he might be available to pitch again if the series continues into Sunday.
Marc Weiss (9-1, 3.01 ERA) and David Jaglowski (5-1, 6.24) will start for the Kingsmen today, and Slimak hopes he doesn’t need to worry about Sunday.
No other Cal Lutheran pitcher has made more than two starts all season.