Photo by Referee Photo
LEWISTON, Idaho – (Box score) The Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) baseball team decided to have a blast in the championship game of the 60th annual Avista NAIA World Series baseball championship at Harris Field on Friday.
Actually, LCSC has a number of blasts, six to be exact.
The Warriors hit six home runs to defeat Faulkner (Ala.) 12-11 in front of 5,020 fans to claim its NAIA best 18th national championship and its second in as many years. LCSC finishes the season 52-8.
Faulkner, which hit five home runs in the contest, finishes the season at 53-15. Both of its losses in the 10-team double-elimination tournament came against LCSC.
The wild contest ended in the bottom of the ninth when Faulkner had the game-tying run thrown out at third after Dario Polanco’s two-run single to left field. The Eagles trailed 12-8 going into the bottom of the ninth, but pushed across three before Onix Martinez was thrown out at third base trying to go from first to third on Polanco’s single. LCSC left-fielder Jacob Zanon’s, the tournament’s MVP, cut off the single and threw to shortstop Cabe Reiten, who relayed the throw to Micah Brown at third, who put the tag on Martinez to end the game. The out emptied the LCSC dugout with a celebration dog pile on the pitcher’s mound.
“On the last play I just got the ball in as quick as I could,” Zanon said. “We practice it all year. I threw a bullet to Cabe and he threw a strike to third.”
“This was an epic battle back and forth,” LCSC coach Jeremiah Robbins said. “There were home runs being hit and pitchers getting rocked a bit. But the most resilient team was still standing at the end.”
The 11 home runs set a record for most home runs in any Series game. The previous record was eight set in 1987. The previous championship game record was four in 2008 when LCSC defeated Lee University (Tenn.) 8-3 for the title.
LCSC, which struggled at the plate early in the tournament, put up big numbers with seven-extra base hits and more than doubled its run average from its previous four games.
“It started yesterday (Thursday) with a light workout. It was the best one we had all season,” Robbins said of the offense. “We had a team meeting after that and it was emotional and special. You could feel this coming.”
Faulkner’s Dennis Morton hit three home runs to tie a Series record for most home runs in a game. Beau Mills of LCSC hit three home runs in the 2007 championship game.
The wild contest featured 29 hits, including 13 for extra bases. Despite all the runs and hits, LCSC only left four stranded on base while Faulkner left eight.
The Warriors jumped out to a 2-0 lead by hitting back-to-back home runs, the first time it has happened in the championship game. J.J. Robinson, who was 1-for-16 in the Series entering the game, hit the first pitch of the second inning over the left-center field fence and Micah Brown followed with a shot over the left-field fence.
Faulkner tied the contest in the bottom of the inning, also using the long ball for its runs. Deivy Palmeiro hit a one-out single up the middle and Morton followed with solid shot over the left-field fence for a two-run home run.
The Warriors made it 3-2 in the top of the fourth. Jacob Zanon drew a leadoff walk and an out later, Brown was hit by a pitch. Tyler McDowell followed with a single in between first and second to score Zanon and move Brown to third. Cabe Reiten, however, grounded into a double play to end the threat.
Faulkner tied the game in the bottom of the inning, but it took an umpire conference to do so. Nick Cain hit a ball down the right-field line that originally was ruled off the lower wall for a double. However, after Faulkner coach Patrick McCarthy argued the call, the six umpires got together and changed the call to a home run. TV replays were inconclusive.
Both teams added three-run home runs in the fifth. In the top of the inning, the Warriors got singles by Julian Ramon and Logan Griffin to end the day for Faulkner starter Miguel Castellanos. Zanon then lifted a three-run shot over the left-center field fence to put LC temporarily up 6-3.
Faulkner, however, responded with a three-run home run of its own and added a solo shot for its first lead. Alexis Cruz singled and David Palenzuela followed with a walk. T.J. Condon, who hit a grand slam on Thursday night during a 14-5 win over Bellevue, launched a three-run shot to left. After a pair of ground outs, Morton clubbed his second home run of the game and 17th of the season to give the Eagles a 7-6 lead.
The Eagles’ advantage was short lived as the Warriors scored twice in the top of the sixth. Tyler McDowell hit a one-out single and Reiten was hit by a pitch. Gunnar Buhner, the son of former Seattle Mariner outfielder Jay Buhner, smacked a two-run double to left-center field to make it 8-7. Faulkner then went to its closer Austin Moreland and he was greeted by a two-run home run by Julian Ramon to make it 10-7.
The Warriors added two more runs in the top of the seventh, Faulkner brought in pitcher Ivan Pelaez, who was making his fourth appearance in the tournament in six days, and LCSC went back-to-back again as Brown and McDowell hit solo home runs to make it 12-7.
Faulkner picked up a run in the bottom of the seventh when Morton slugged his third home run, a solo shot, to give him 19 on the season.
In the wild ninth, LCSC reliever Quin Grogan struck out the first two batters he faced before Palmeiro singled up the middle. A walk to Morton and a single by Cain loaded the bases. Martinez then singled through the left side for an RBI and Polanco followed with his two-run single before Martinez was thrown out at third to end the game.
Several players had big nights at the plate. Zanon went 2-for-4 with three RBI, while Brown, McDowell, Buhner, and Ramon drove in two apiece. McDowell also added three hits.
Morton finished 3-for-4 with four RBI and four runs scored. Cain, Martinez and Polanco added three hits apiece. Condon drove in three, while Polanco added two RBI.
The World Series concluded with an awards ceremony that included the All-World Series team, consisting of 16 individuals, the Charles Berry Hustle Award, the World Series Gold Glove Award and the Most Valuable Player Award. Honorees listed below.
The Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series is a 10-team, double-elimination event hosted by Lewis-Clark State (Idaho). For more information on the 60th annual event, click HERE.
2016 Avista-NAIA Baseball All-World Series Team
1B – Aaron Ashton, Lindsey Wilson (Ky.)
2B – Dario Polanco, Faulkner (Ala.)
3B – Sully Rios Reyes, Tennessee Wesleyan
SS – Wardy Polonco, Tennessee Wesleyan
INF – Dennis Morton, Faulkner, (Ala.)
C – Gerald Ceballos, Sterling (Kan.)
C – Jake Browne, Bellevue (Neb,)
OF – Dalton Kelley, Auburn Montgomery (Ala.)
OF – Edgar Lebron, Lindsey Wilson (Ky,)
OF – Nick Cain, Faulkner (Ala.)
OF – Jacob Zanon, Lewis-Clark State (Idaho)
DH – T.J. Condon, Faulkner (Ala.)
P – Kevin Hamann, Lewis-Clark State (Idaho)
P – Quin Grogan, Lewis-Clark State (Idaho)
P – Ivan Pelaez, Faulkner (Ala.)
P – Jordan Watson, Science & Arts (Okla.)
Charles Berry Hustle Award: Wardy Polanco, Tennessee-Wesleyan
World Series Gold Glove Award: Gunner Buhner, Lewis-Clark State (Idaho)
World Series Most Valuable Player: Jacob Zanon, Lewis-Clark State (Idaho)