The 8-4 victory over the second-seeded Lee University Flames earned the Eagles the right to face Lewis-Clark State for the national championship tonight. The seventh-seeded and host Warriors (45-14) eliminated No. 3 Embry-Riddle earlier in the day. They must defeat Faulkner (55-11) on Thursday and again on Friday to claim the championship.
Lee (51-12) settled for third place in the 10-team field, the Flames never getting the needed breaks to turn the battle against their SSAC rival to their favor.
“We just couldn't break through against Esquibel,” said coach Mark Brew who has brought seven teams to the World Series and never finished worse than fourth. “He (Esquibel) did a great job against us.”
The Flames moved on top 1-0 when senior Brandon Rader drilled a homer into the left-field stands in the third inning.
Faulkner sent nine men to the plate in the sixth inning and took a 4-1 lead. A walk, followed by three straight singles, another free pass with the bases loaded, and one more base knock plated the four runs.
Lee starting pitcher Myles Smith was strong for the first five innings. He fanned five and had given up just three hits before running into trouble in the sixth.
“Myles was strong early, but he just ran out of gas throwing on three days’ rest. We just couldn't get out of those two big innings, and that was the difference.”
The Flames fought back and cut the lead to 4-3 in the bottom of the sixth. Brady Renner singled and Josh Silver was hit by a pitch. Both advanced to third and second on a wild pitch and scored on a two-RBI single by Danny Canela.
The hopes of advancing in the NAIA World Series came to an end in the eighth. The Eagles sent eight men to the plate and the damage again started with a walk. RBI doubles by Darius Holguin and Zak Colby sealed the deal.
Lee’s final run came in the bottom of the eighth. Renner doubled and later scored on a throwing error. For the Series, the Lee lead-off man scored eight runs. Canela had a team-leading six RBIs.
The Flames could muster only five hits off Esquibel (11-2). He struck out eight and did not walk a hitter. Smith, whose record dropped to 11-4, allowed six hits, four earned runs, fanned five and walked three. Jeremy Stawychny helped the Flames out of the sixth-inning jam and hurled 2 1/3 innings. He gave up three hits, three earned runs, had two strikeouts and walked two. Andy Hillis came on for 1 2/3 innings. Hillis surrendered one hit, one earned run, fanned two and walked one.
“It's a tough way to end a great year,” said Brew. “We accomplished a lot and this team has nothing to be disappointed about.”
Brew also spoke about his team’s final trip to the NAIA World Series. “We will miss the Lewiston community. We have created so many great friends over the years and I think our team has represented our institution well in this community.
“It will be a big void at the end of next season, not making the trip out here, but we are excited about our future in NCAA. It will be a new challenge and we are ready to take it on.”
NAIA World Series
at Lewiston, Idaho
Friday, May 24
No. 9 Missouri Baptist 8, No. 8 Sterling (Kan.) 3
No. 5 The Master’s (Calif.) 5, No. 4 Northwood (Texas) 4
No. 3 Embry-Riddle (Fla.) 8, York (Neb.) 3
No. 7 Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) 6, No. 10 Rogers State (Okla.) 1
Saturday, May 25
Northwood 1, Sterling 0
Rogers State 4, York 1
No. 1 Faulkner (Ala.) 2, Missouri Baptist 0
No. 2 Lee University 14, Lewis-Clark State 11
Monday, May 27
Missouri Baptist 5, Rogers State (Okla.) 4
Lewis-Clark State 9, Northwood (Texas) 5
Faulkner 7, The Master’s 6
Embry-Riddle 5, Lee 4
Tuesday, May 28
Lewis-Clark State 3, vs. The Master’s 2
Lee 12, Missouri Baptist 2
Faulkner 10, Embry-Riddle 3
Wednesday, May 29
Lewis-Clark State 13, Embry-Riddle (50-14) 7
Faulkner 8, Lee (51-12) 4
Thursday, May 30
Faulkner (55-12) vs. Lewis-Clark State (45-14), 9:35 p.m.
Friday, May 31
Iif necessary game, 9:35