Cal Poly Pomona’s players observed the baseball superstition of ignoring pitcher Peter Bayer as the erratic senior right-hander flirted with a no-hitter through 7 2/3 innings before he yielded a single.
But Bayer regrouped behind teammates that turned vocal to finish with a one-hitter and 14 strikeouts over eight innings, an effort he called the best of his career. He led the Broncos to a 3-0 win over Central Missouri in the NCAA Division II Championships Wednesday at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.
“Once we got past the sixth inning it’s on your mind, but that wasn’t the goal,” Bayer said. “It was just trying to hold them down to win the game.”
In the second elimination showdown of the day, Lander (44-15) won 4-2 over Southern Indiana (38-21).
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Half of the eight regional champions have now returned home from the double elimination tournament that is DII’s College World Series. Central Region champion Central Missouri finished the season 43-15 and Midwest champ Southern Indiana 38-21.
West winner Pomona (42-18) next faces South champ Nova Southeastern (41-16) of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., at 3 p.m. Thursday. Southeast champion Lander of Greenwood, S.C., plays at 7 p.m. against Atlantic champ Millersville (52-5), a school outside of Lancaster, Pa.
Bayer, a 6-foot-4, 185-pounder, had retired 17 straight batters until Central Missouri catcher Blake Wilfong singled with two outs.
“He had command of three pitches,” said Wilfong, whose great uncle Rob Wilfong played 11 Major League Baseball seasons. “You couldn’t sit on one pitch.”
Bayer, a University of Richmond transfer, was an unlikely candidate for such a performance. He’s usually causes his own headaches; he entered the game with a 1-2 record in 15 games and 12 starts with a 4.99 ERA. Nevertheless, he’s drawn MLB scouts, thanks to a fastball consistently clocked at 91-to 92 miles per hour. He says he’s hit 95 on a good day.
“I don’t know what I threw today, but it felt good,” said Bayer.
Lander only managed five hits to 10 for Southern Indiana, but a three-run fourth inning for a 4-1 lead ultimately decided the game.
Designated-hitter Thomas Berry and catcher John Mangum, an N.C. State transfer, were both hit by pitches to lead off the inning. After a sacrifice bunt advanced both runners, second baseman Will Jones singled to score Berry and right-fielder Gatlin Minick singled to right field to score both Mangum and Jones.
For the day Jones was 2-of-4 with two RBI and a run scored and Minick 1-of-2 with two RBI. Southern Indiana center-fielder Hamilton Carr was 3-of-4 with a run scored.
Pomona and Lander are still alive, but they are playing their fourth game against teams rewarded with days off from a 2-0 start.
In the 7 p.m. game, Millersville, the nation’s top-ranked DII team that hasn’t played since Monday, has a well-rested staff. Ace Brandon Miller (12-1) tossed a 1-0 complete game victory in Saturday’s opener and thus has four days rest entering Thursday’s third game if the Marauders choose him over a third starter.
In Millersville’s second game on Monday, Jim McDade (12-0) worked 7 2/3 innings in an 11-3 win; three relievers split the final five outs. McDade can work on four days rest if Millersville is still playing on Saturday’s final day.
Meanwhile, Lander has used three starters in its three games as well as three pitchers overall in the first game, four in the second and three in the third. But with Sunday’s games moved to Saturday due to weather forecasts, Sam Linn (5-2) has four days off since his no-decision on Saturday.
“We still have two starters we haven’t used, Colton Rogers (7-2, 5.12 ERA) and Tripper Ergle (0-1, 4.37 ERA), and we could come back with Sam Linn,” Lander Coach Kermit Smith said. “We have a couple options. Those are the three guys we’ll be choosing from.”
In the 3 p.m., game Pomona Coach Randy Betten said he will study Nova Southeastern’s lineup before deciding on his starter.