LEWISTON, Idaho – For the third-straight season, Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) claims the coveted red banner, as the Warriors defeated Faulkner (Ala.) Friday night in the championship game of the 2017 Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series.
“I’m happy for our players,” said Lewis-Clark State head coach Jeremiah Robbins. “They put a lot of time and effort into it. I love these guys, this is a great team. I wouldn’t want to play with anyone else.”
The title is an NAIA record 19th for Lewis-Clark State, which improves to 142-46 all-time at the event. The Warriors end the season with a 40-14 record.
The game winner came in the seventh inning, as designated hitter J.J. Robinson gave the Warriors their first lead, 5-4, since the opening inning with a triple to the right field corner. Robinson, who ended the night 2-for-3 at the dish with two runs scored and one RBI, had not previously hit a triple this season.
“I felt pretty good tonight and I was looking for something up because he was throwing high,” said Lewis-Clark State’s J.J. Robinson. “I hit that pretty well, and when coach came out and talked to me it gave me even more confidence.”
Robinson – the World Series Most Valuable Player – scored two batters later on a wild pitch to give Lewis-Clark State the two-run advantage.
Entering tonight’s game, the Warriors had only scored two runs in the seventh inning-or-later through their first five games at the World Series.
“We talked about it in the clubhouse before that pitching and defense would win this game,” said Robbins. “They did that throughout that was the key.”
Faulkner’s bats were dormant from the fifth inning on due in large part to the pitching of Dalton Blackwell, Matt Fish and Anthony Balderas. Blackwell (2-0), who had not thrown in more than month, shut down Faulkner’s offense in the middle innings. The senior surrendered only one hit in innings five through seven with two strike outs and no walks en route to the win.
“They (Faulkner) are a big rhythm and timing hitting team, so we knew we had to keep their rhythm and timing off,” adding Robbins. “Tried to do a little bit of smoke and mirrors, but Daulton (Blackwell) was on so we kept going with him.”
Matt Fish allowed only three hits over the course of 1.1 innings, before Balderas closed the door in the ninth for his fifth save of the season.
It was déjà vu in the first inning, as John Price blasted a home run in the game’s opening inning for a second-straight night. Tonight it was of the two-run variety, as Tra’mayne Holmes started the inning with a single. The long-ball is Holmes third of the World Series and 11th of the season.
The Warriors knotted the score, 2-2, in the bottom of the frame on a Micah Brown two-run home run. The home run was Brown’s second of the World Series and sixth of the season.
Brock Ephan’s two-out RBI single closed the scoring in the opening inning to give Lewis-Clark State a 3-2 lead.
Faulkner evened the score in the top of the second when L.D. Coney beat out an infield ground ball that scored Wes Roberson – the courtesy runner for Paolo Montezuma – from third.
Roberson scored his second run of the game in the top of the fourth to give Faulkner back the lead, 4-3. The Collierville, Tenn., broke hard on a ground ball to first base and never stopped running to reach the plate from second base. The Warrior first baseman threw to second for a potential double-play attempt.
Miscues led to a 4-4 tie once again, as a balk followed by a wild pitch plated Lewis-Clark State’s Raymond Pedrina in the bottom of the sixth.
Like he had all World Series long, Price led the offense for Faulkner. The senior ended the game 2-for-4 with two RBI and one run scored.
Five different pitchers toed the rubber for Faulkner with Jonathan Wilkins (0-2) taking the loss.
Faulkner ends its year as the national championship runner-up for the second-straight season. The Eagles fell to 54-12 on the year.
Friday night’s matchup marked the first time that the same two teams have played in the final since Lewis-Clark State and Oklahoma City faced off in 2002 and 2003.