By NAIA World Series
LEWISTON, Idaho – (Box Score) Top seed Oklahoma City and No. 5 seed Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) decided to flirt with disaster in their winner’s bracket game at the 61st annual Avista-NAIA World Series on Monday night.
Coming up with the key plays when needed, the Warriors stayed in the winner’s bracket with an 8-7 win over the Stars at Harris Field in Ed Cheff Stadium. LCSC is one of two undefeated teams left in the tournament along with No. 2 seed Faulkner, and the two will meet up at 6:30 p.m. PDT. Tuesday night. Oklahoma City falls into the loser’s bracket where it will face The Master’s (Calif.) in loser-out play at 3 p.m.
LCSC was out-hit 15-10 in the contest, but came up with the hits when it had runners in scoring position. Combined with some excellent catches in the outfield by center-fielder Raymond Pedrina and left-fielder Tyler McDowell, along with a solid relief appearance by Henry McAree, the Warriors were able to capture the tight win.
“We made some big plays when we needed to,” LCSC coach Jeremiah Robbins said. “We didn’t pitch all that well, but we got the quality pitch when we needed it. This time of year, that is huge. The plays by McDowell in left and Ray in center, those are game-changing plays. That kind of kept momentum on our side.”
The bottom of the first and top of the second typified the game for both teams. Oklahoma City collected four-straight hits in the bottom of the first, but had two baserunners thrown out and wound up with only one run. In the top of the second, LCSC used six hits, two errors and a hit batter to push across six runs and leave only one baserunner stranded.
“This thing could have blown open easily for them, but we made some big plays,” Robbins said.
LCSC, 37-13 overall, took a 6-1 lead in the top of the second. With runners on first and second, Gunnar Buhner bunted and a late throw to first wound up down the right-field line. That allowed two runs to score and Buhner to reach third. Cooper Goldby’s sacrifice fly scored Buhner. J.J. Robinson later singled in two runs and scored on a double by McDowell.
OCU, 49-9 overall, threatened again in the second as the Stars loaded the bases with one out. However, OCU could only muster one run again on Joe Lytle’s RBI single.
LCSC countered with two runs in the fourth for an 8-2 lead on Seaver Whalen’s two-run home run that cleared the bleachers in left field. It was his 11th home run of the season.
OCU, however, wouldn’t go away quietly. The Stars scored three runs in the fourth. Jared Baker, who is on a tear in the tournament, doubled in a run and Cory Linn added a two-run single.
OCU added two more in the fifth to cut the lead to 8-7. Skyler Bean and Lane Milligan hit back-to-back doubles to score a run. Lytle then singled in a run.
After both teams pounded the ball for the first five innings, the final four turned into a pitcher’s duel between relievers McAree and Bryce Milligan. Neither team could score after the fifth inning.
McAree, a senior right-hander, pitched 5.2 innings of relief and allowed four hits and two runs. He struck out eight and walked one. He picked up the win to improve to 3-0 on the season.
“Henry gutted it up for us,” Robbins said. “We extended his pitch count a little bit so he’s going to need a couple of days rest but we got this one and that’s all that matters.”
Bryce Milligan pitched five innings and allowed just two hits. He struck out five and walked one in relief of Mark Simon, who gave up the eight runs on eight hits and took the loss to fall to 10-2 on the season.
Logan Griffin finished with two hits for LCSC while Whalen and Robinson both drove in two runs.
Lytle went 4-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored for OCU, while Lane Milligan added three hits and Linn two RBI.