LEWISTON, Idaho – The Fire made their mark in their first ever appearance at the Avista-NAIA World Series. Fueled by a gem on the mound by junior lefty Jonathan Bermudez and a 13-hit performance by the lineup, the fourth-seeded Southeastern University baseball team upended the Oklahoma City University Stars 8-3 for its first ever World Series victory. The win snapped a streak of 10 consecutive NAIA World Series opening game wins for OCU.
“I thought we did a really good job of capitalizing on their mistakes…Jonathan gave us a shot from the get go, so our offense was able to get moving,” shared head coach Adrian Dinkel.
The Fire jumped out first in the top of the first thanks to a leadoff triple by junior outfielder Manuel Mesa. Two at-bats later, Mesa was brought home via an RBI single by junior outfielder Marvin Malone to put SEU ahead 1-0.
Mesa and Malone finished the day as two of three Southeastern bats to record three hits, with the other being junior designated hitter Ivan Nunez.
The Stars quickly answered in the bottom of the first with a sacrifice fly that evened things up 1-1.
The Fire pulled back ahead in a powerful way in the top of the third, as junior shortstop Adam De La Cruz hammered a solo shot over the left field wall on a 1-1 count to put SEU ahead 2-1. The home run was his seventh of the season.
A sacrifice fly to right field by senior catcher Torrence Sumerlin scored Vince Volpatti and put the Fire ahead 3-1.
Volpatti entered the game to replace Nick Bottari, who was injured in a previous at-bat. Coming off the bench, Volpatti was 1-3 at the plate with an RBI and two runs scored. He also held down the defensive duties at first base.
“Nick’s position is hard to fill. I just wanted to go out there and do it for him when I was called upon…I’m glad I was able to get it done,” commented Volpatti.
The Stars made it a one-run game in the bottom of the fourth thanks to a Fire error. However, SEU made it a 4-2 game in the top of the fifth thanks to another RBI single by Malone that scored Mesa.
Bermudez battled on the mound for Southeastern. After enduring some tough spots early on, the Coamo, Puerto Rico native settled in, retiring six straight Stars from the bottom of the fourth through the top of the sixth.
His inning-ending strikeout in the bottom of the sixth broke the single-season program record for strikeouts at 138. Bermudez pushed his season strikeout total to 141 by the end of the contest with his eight strikeout performance.
However, Bermudez was not finished and he was looking to the Fire bats to give him some insurance runs.
“I told the boys in the top of the seventh I just needed a couple of runs. Vince and those guys came in clutch and the momentum just swung to our dugout,” remarked Bermudez.
The Fire offense did just that in the top of the seventh. SEU plated four runs on four hits and an error in the frame. RBI singles by Volpatti, Nunez, and Sumerlin highlighted the inning that put Southeastern ahead of Oklahoma City 8-2.
The Stars put another on the board in the bottom of the eighth to cut the deficit to 8-3.
Bermudez remained dialed in the later frames to close things out for the Fire. A fielder’s choice into the glove of De La Cruz sealed the SEU victory and earned Bermudez his single-season program record 14th win of the season. The complete game was his first since tossing a no-hitter versus Warner on 3/23.
The Fire were also active on the base paths, tying the team single-game postseason record for stolen bases in a game (5).
The Fire advance to play the winner of No. 1 Faulkner (Ala.) and No. 8 Antelope Valley (Calif.) Monday at 6 p.m. EDT.