Fifth-Seeded Southeastern Tops Sixth-Seeded Lewis-Clark State in front of Home Crowd
LEWISTON, Idaho – The Southeastern University baseball team is championship game bound. Fueled by an early onslaught of offense and an excellent start by their ace pitcher, the fifth-seeded Fire knocked off the sixth-seeded host school Lewis-Clark State College Warriors 9-6 to eliminate the program who had won the previous three Avista-NAIA World Series titles. With the win, the Fire snapped a streak of six straight World Series elimination games won by the Warriors.
“The pitching staff did a good job and the offense found a way to take some extra bags in timely situations. The guys came out swinging and they were ready to play,” remarked head coach Adrian Dinkel.
The Fire jumped on the board early versus the Warriors, plating three runs in the top of the first on four hits.
For the fourth consecutive contest in Lewiston, junior outfielder Manuel Mesa led off the game for SEU with a base hit, this one a single up the middle. Later in the inning, Mesa was brought home by junior outfielder Marvin Malone, who singled to right field. A fly ball to center field off the bat of junior first baseman Nick Bottari was deep enough to score Dominic Anagnos.
A single to left by senior catcher Torrence Sumerlin scored Malone and put SEU up 3-0 to cap off the inning.
The Warriors responded in the bottom half of the frame, plating a run to cut the deficit to 3-1.
The Fire eradicated the run in the top of the second via the bat of junior shortstop Adam De La Cruz, who launched a solo shot over the left field wall. The long ball was his team-leading second home run of the World Series and put SEU ahead of LC 4-1.
In a wild top of the third, the Fire tacked on four more off of two hits, two errors, and two hit by pitches.
The scoring started when junior utility man Dan Valerio smacked his team-best 26th double of the season that brought Bottari home.
A wild pitch, followed by a throwing error by the LC catcher allowed by junior designated hitter Ivan Nunez and Valerio to cross the plate. Valerio was originally called out on the play, but the use of video review reversed the call on the field and ruled him safe.
An RBI double by Mesa later in the frame scored sophomore utility player Vince Volpatti and put the Fire ahead of the Warriors 8-1. The double was his fifth in Lewiston.
As he has done in each contest in the series, Mesa went 3-5 at the plate. The Bronx, N.Y. native tied the program NAIA postseason individual hits record tonight at 20.
The Warriors cut the Fire lead to 8-3 in the bottom of the fourth off a two-run homer by senior designated hitter Matt Thompson.
After five days’ rest from his previous start in Lewiston, junior southpaw pitcher Jonathan Bermudez battled his team into a position to win.
Bermudez notched five strikeouts through his first two frames tossed. After surrendering the home run in the bottom of the fourth, the Coama, Puerto Rico native went on to toss three shutout innings and did not allow an extra-base hit.
“I was just trying to get ahead in the count and my fastball was working…I just stayed focused and tried to keep the momentum on our side,” shared Bermudez.
Bermudez finished the day with 12 strikeouts, which helped him set a new program individual NAIA postseason strikeouts record at 33 punch outs.
The Warriors made it a two-run contest in the bottom of the eighth, scoring three runs, two of which crossed home off a Fire error to trim their lead down to 8-6.
The Fire added an insurance run in the top of the ninth, thanks to a fielder’s choice by Bottari that enabled Mesa to come home.
Senior reliever Jared Crescentini was called upon to close things out. With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Crescentini executed a strikeout to close the door on LC, earn his sixth save of the season, and clinch the Fire a place in the title game.
The Fire face the seventh-seeded Freed-Hardeman University Lions in the championship game Thursday night at 9:30 p.m. EDT. The Fire defeated the Lions 8-1 on Tuesday. Since Southeastern is unbeaten in World Series play, FHU has to beat SEU tomorrow to force a winner-take-all contest on Friday.
Be sure to follow @SEUFireBaseball on Twitter for all the latest updates, as the Fire look to make history tomorrow night in Lewiston.