LEWISTON, Idaho — The Lee University Flames were watching when the first pitches of the 57th annual Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series are thrown at noon today when No. 8 Sterling (Kan.) and No. 9 Missouri Baptist square off at Harris Field, but coach Mark Brew’s second-seeded squad won’t play their first game until late tomorrow evening.
The 10-team double elimination championship is being hosted by Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) for the 14th-consecutive year and 22nd overall.
After the conclusion of the Sterling and Missouri Baptist game, No. 4 Northwood (Texas) and No. 5 The Master’s (Calif.) do battle at 3 p.m., followed by No. 3 Embry-Riddle (Fla.) and No. 6 York (Neb.) at 6 p.m. and No. 7 Lewis-Clark State and No. 10 Rogers State (Okla.) at 10 p.m.
No. 1 Faulkner (Ala.) and No. 2 Lee received opening round byes and won’t see game action until Saturday. The Eagles play the winner of Sterling and Missouri Baptist at 6 p.m., while the Flames face off against either Lewis-Clark State or Rogers State at 9:30 p.m. Saturday’s action will be aired on 104.1 FM and around the world by Stretch Internet.
Four of last year’s 10 World Series qualifiers return to the field, including Lee who is making its seventh-straight trip to Harris Field following a 14-0 victory over Avila (Mo.) in the Opening Round Cleveland Bracket title game, played at Olympic Field.
Behind the Flames is Embry-Riddle with six-straight appearances. The Master’s snaps the longest drought amongst the qualifiers who have made at least one trip to the World Series, as the Mustangs earned a spot for the first time since 2000. Faulkner makes the field for the first time since 2011.
Four teams punched their first-ever ticket to Lewiston with a NAIA Baseball Championship Opening Round title. Newcomers include: Missouri Baptist, Northwood, Sterling and York. Of the newcomers, Missouri Baptist was the last team to qualify for the World Series. The Spartans avenged an earlier round loss to defending national champion Tennessee Wesleyan with two-straight victories, including a 19-inning marathon win (4-3) on May 13 in the Kingsport Bracket. The contest is the longest game (innings) in NAIA baseball postseason history.
Lewis-Clark State boasts the World Series record for appearances, playing in its 32nd overall event and 14th-straight this season. The Warriors have won the title a record 16 times – last coming in 2008 – and own a NAIA record mark of 120-39. Lewis-Clark State is the only team amongst the 2013 qualifiers with a World Series crown.
Top-seeded Faulkner enters the event with an NAIA-best 51 wins this season. The Eagles, who have won 13 of their last 14 games, are the only program with 50-or-more victories in the NAIA. Lee rests one game shy of the 50-win plateau with 49, while Embry-Riddle and Sterling own 48 each.
The Southern States Athletic Conference, represented by Faulkner and Lee, is the only league with more than one team playing in the World Series this season. Last year, three conferences had multiple teams reach Lewiston.
The Flames spend a busy Thursday. They visited two elementary schools and then several of the players took part in a baseball clinic for youth at Harris Field. The day concluded with the annual banquet at Lewis-Clark State College.