A loss to the University of Massachusetts Boston in the second round of the NCAA Division 3 College World Series wasn’t the outcome the Chapman University baseball team was expecting, but it didn’t prevent them from reaching their ultimate goal.
The Panthers rebounded after the loss, winning three straight elimination games, one against Washington & Jefferson College and two against UMass-Boston to advance to the championship series against Birmingham-Southern.
On Tuesday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Chapman won both of its games against Birmingham-Southern to claim the Division 3 National Championship.
Former Hart pitcher and current Chapman reliever Cody Turner played a crucial role in the team’s road to the title, pitching seven total innings in four tournament games.
“To come through the losing bracket after losing the second game on the second day, and being able to come all the way back to the three-game series against Birmingham-Southern and being able to sweep them and rush the field, it humbles you right then and there,” Turner told The Signal. “Crazy emotions, the whole World Series was just an awesome experience. A lot of emotion, a lot of crying, just excitement.”
Turner logged eight strikeouts and allowed only two hits and no runs in four tournament games, earning a win against Washington & Jefferson after pitching four innings.
For his efforts, the sophomore right-hander was named to the All-Tournament Team along with seven of his teammates.
“It was definitely something that was very prideful for me when my name was called and I made the All-Tournament Team. I worked really hard,” he said. “I went into the series with the mentality that this is going to be my series, make sure I make my name in this series and I did that with the seven innings. I made sure that I was going to put everything I could into those innings and make sure I put my team in a good spot to win this thing and it worked.”
Chapman has been a powerhouse in Division 3 baseball since the early 2000’s, including winning a National Championship in 2003.
The Panthers went through a short playoff lull in the last few years, but in Turner’s freshman year in 2018, the team made it back to the tournament. Chapman lost in the West Regional last year, but brought back a large chunk of its core this season.
“Last year with us getting somewhat closer than what we’ve been in recent years and then this year with the same star pitching staff and a lot of the guys, we knew were able to make this a long run,” Turner said. “It’s definitely a huge sense of pride to be able to come in here and get us back to what Chapman is known for and that’s winning World Series’. It’s definitely something we’re going to want to repeat.”
The Panthers graduate three starting pitchers, Mason Collins, Jonathan Hernandez and Tyler Peck, who was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday in round No. 28 of the 2019 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
A new class of incoming freshmen will add depth to the pitching rotation, but Turner knows he’ll likely step out of the bullpen and into a starting role. That’s one of the main reasons why he decided to play summer baseball with the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters in the Northwoods League, one of the most prominent and well-known summer leagues in the country.
“There was definitely talk about me starting next season, that’s part of the reason I’m going to play summer ball, to get my endurance up and go into that starting position,” he said. “It’s a hard spot to fill especially with the three starters we just won the World Series with, but it’s something I want. It’s something I did at Hart and something I’m able to do here at Chapman.”
In Turner’s two-year varsity career at Hart, head coach Jim Ozella utilized him a starter both seasons. He went 6-3 in 10 starts and had an ERA of 1.93 in his senior campaign in 2017.
Under Ozella’s tutelage, Turner continued to get better and found his way to Chapman, which turned out to be the best move in his still-growing baseball career.
“Coach Ozella is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. He told me you can play ball, but you need to go somewhere that you’re going to play and make a name for yourself. So when Chapman came up he was all for it and wanted me to go and play,” Turner said. “When we won, I got a text message from him saying all the hard work paid off. He said he was glad that he had his hands in my development and he definitely did because I wouldn’t be here without his help.
“Hart has a reputation for getting ballers out of there at every level, and coach Ozella has his hands in a lot of people.”
Turner will spend the next couple of months playing in the Northwoods League looking to turn some heads and build up his stamina as he prepares for a starting position.
After the summer he’ll return to Chapman and get ready to lead the Panthers charge for back-to-back titles.
As for when his college career comes to a close two years from now, Turner is going to leave that open-ended.
“I just won the World Series and now I’m here to make another name for myself and see what I can do and compete. It’s a lot different competition, these are some big guys in the Northwoods League, I’m going to challenge myself,” he said. “As for the long term, something coach Ozella always told me is you go until somebody says you can’t play anymore. So I’m going to keep playing until somebody tells me I can’t play anymore and whether that’s Major League Baseball or when I’m done with college, I’m just going to play until I can’t.”