The two-time defending champion Warriors, who used six home runs to defeat Faulkner (Ala.) 12-11 in last year's championship game, hit three home runs against Keiser to account for its first four runs. LCSC's win also meant all four of the lower seeds were victorious in Friday's play.
With the win, the Warriors, 35-13, receive a bye on Saturday and will play the winner of the William Carey (Miss.)-Oklahoma City game on Monday. Keiser, 42-20, falls into loser-out play and will face Hope International (Calif.) at 11:30 a.m. PDT on Saturday.
The contest featured strong outings by starting pitchers Connor Brogdon of LCSC and Daniel Garmendia of Keiser. Brogdon, a 6-foot-6 senior right-hander, allowed just four hits and two earned runs over eight innings. He threw 125 pitches, 86 for strikes, and struck out 10 with three walks. Garmedia, 6-3 junior right-hander, threw 6.2 innings and allowed six hits and five earned runs. He also struck out eight and walked three.
The Warriors, seeking their NAIA-leading 19th national title, jumped on the board early when senior shortstop Seaver Whalen hit a solo home run in the bottom of the first inning to put LCSC ahead 1-0. It's his 10th home run of the season.
LCSC made it 2-0 in the second when Tyler McDowell, who had missed most of the season with an injury, hit a solo home run in his return for his second blast of the season. McDowell was injured in mid-March and didn't start another game until LCSC's final regular-season game. This was only the 19th game and 15th start for McDowell, who entered the game hitting .229 on the season.
“I was actually looking outside fastball and he threw a slider that started outside,” McDowell said of the pitch. “I thought it was a fastball and I just tried to keep my hands back, and it just broke right over the middle of the plate.”
The Seahawks battled back with a run in the top of the third. Miguel Casanueva drew a one-out walk and went to second on a single by Reyni Olivero. Zack Saldivar then singled up the middle to score Casanueva, but Olivero was thrown out at third by LCSC center fielder Raymond Pedrina. A fly out to center then ended the threat.
The Warriors put up two more via a home run in the fifth inning. Catcher Cooper Goldby, hitting in the ninth spot, drew a one-out walk and Pedrina followed with a two-run home run to left field, his sixth of the season.
LCSC made it 6-1 in the sixth with two runs. J.J. Robinson was hit by a pitch and scored on a double to deep left-center field by McDowell, who took third on a wild throw to home. Logan Griffin then hit a sacrifice fly to center to score McDowell.
“It was great having the crowd behind us,” said McDowell about the 3,010 fans in attendance. “I think the support just really calmed us down and allowed us to just let loose and swing.”
Keiser picked up its second run on a solo home run by Jack Curtis in the top of the seventh. It was the sixth home run of the season for Curtis.
The Warriors answered in the bottom of the seventh with a run to make it 7-2. Goldby singled and was replaced by courtesy runner Chase Hafer, who scored the Warriors' final run on a wild pitch.
Keiser did make things interesting with two runs in the top of the of ninth, but LCSC turned a line drive into a double play and held on for the win.
Along with McDowell, Whalen finished with two hits for LCSC, which collected seven in the game.