LEWISTON, Idaho – No. 2 Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) will play for a NAIA title for the second-straight season, as the Warriors downed No. 3 Oklahoma Wesleyan, 9-5, Thursday evening at the 2014 Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series. Lewis-Clark State will play No. 10 Cumberland (Tenn.) at 6:30 p.m. PDT on Friday for the championship.
“The way we go about it and compete is phenomenal,” said Lewis-Clark State head coach Jeremiah Robbins. “The guys love this game, and are great teammates. They got down and got punched in the face, but got back up. We responded with a seven-spot and got the energy back in our dugout. It was a pleasure to watch.”
Much as he has done the entire World Series, Ryan Sells led the offense for Lewis-Clark State. The senior centerfielder, who entered the evening with a .455 batting average at the event, ended the night 3-for-5 at the dish with three RBIs, two extra base hits and two runs scored. Freshman shortstop Michael Sexton also had a multi-hit night, with two hits in five at-bats.
Starting pitcher Michael Noteware, who lost to Cumberland in his only other appearance at this year’s World Series, tossed his second complete-game of the season. The senior right-hander allowed five runs (two earned) on eight hits, while striking out two and walking three.
“He (Noteware) was phenomenal,” said Robbins. “He really wanted this one and he knew what this one meant to us. He knew it would be his last time to pitch on this mound. He wanted to go out the right way and he certainly did that.”
Lewis-Clark State (47-8) drew first blood in the top of the first when Sells sent a 3-1 pitch into orbit for his first home run of the World Series – 11th of the year. Oklahoma Wesleyan starter Sam Haynes, who cruised through the first two Warrior hitters, struck out Cody Lavalli looking to end the inning.
Oklahoma Wesleyan, aided by two Lewis-Clark State errors, responded in the bottom of the third with four runs. Jeff Butler’s sacrifice bunt with runners on first and second plated the first run, as Warrior third baseman Brian Corliss’ throw went wide of first base. Five pitches later, Jose Ruiz cleared the bases with a double down the left-field line, before coming home on a Will Price blooper over the head of the Lewis-Clark State second baseman to make it a 4-1 Eagle advantage.
Back-to-back singles by Sells and Lavalli set the table for a seven-run sixth – the most runs scored in a single inning at this year’s event – to give Lewis-Clark State an 8-4 lead. Following an RBI ground out by Sexton, Raymond Pedrina, who is making his first World Series start for the Warriors, ripped a double to deep right-center field. A walk and hit-by-pitch, which ended the night for Haynes, loaded the bases with two outs. Jake Shirley took full advantage of the situation, blasting a 2-2 pitch over the outstretched glove of the Eagles’ centerfielder for a bases clearing double, giving Lewis-Clark State its first lead since the first inning, 6-4.
The Warriors added two more before the end of the inning on a Sells single, making it 8-4.
Oklahoma Wesleyan cut the deficit to 8-5 on an Avery Flores single that scored Garrett Easton. East had reached previously on a single of his own.
Lewis-Clark State added an insurance run in the seventh to close out the scoring.
Seven different Eagles accounted for the club’s eight hits, including two from Easton.
Haynes, who fell to 9-3 on the year, took the loss for Oklahoma Wesleyan.
With the offensive performance, Lewis-Clark State has outscored its opponents, 31-11, in its last 37 innings.
Friday’s meeting between Lewis-Clark State and Cumberland will be the third for the two programs at this year’s World Series. The Warriors and Bulldogs have met once previously in the title game, with Lewis-Clark State claiming a 5-4 extra-inning win in 2006.
“It’s a phenomenal championship game, and I think the right two teams are in it,” said Robbins. “Coach (Woody) Hunt is a legend, and what he does at Cumberland is phenomenal. I’m proud to face him. It’s going to be the toughest team, and the one that holds its mentality solid for nine innings.”
Oklahoma Wesleyan, which was playing in its first-ever World Series, ends the season with a 58-8 record. The victory total is a single-season record for the club.