By Brian Adamowsky, Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series Communications/Sports Information Assistant
LEWISTON, Idaho - (Box score) Top-seeded Faulkner (Ala.) is a win away from its first national championship.
The Eagles upended Southern States Athletic Conference foe Lee (Tenn.) 8-4 on Thursday night in the second semifinal at the 2013 Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series, eliminating the Flames and securing themselves a date with No. 7 Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) on Thursday night.
Faulkner is unbeaten heading into Game 18, meaning that the host Warriors would need to beat the Eagles twice to claim their 17th national title.
“The last few steps up the mountain are always the hardest, and our biggest challenge lies ahead of us,” Faulkner coach Patrick McCarthy said. “We have the toughest task of any team in the NAIA in facing Lewis-Clark State in front of their packed house. We have to maintain our composure and stick to our approach.”
Faulkner used a pair of four run innings and a complete-game gem from starter Julian Esquibel to eliminate Lee.
The Eagles pushed across four in the top of the sixth to chase Lee ace Myles Smith (11-4), taking a 4-1 lead.
“I think sticking to our approach against Myles Smith was a key for us,” McCarthy said. “We tried to lay off his breaking stuff and hoped we would speed up to his fastball. It worked out for us that we got his pitch count up and he flattened out on three days’ rest.”
Lee made it a one-run game in the bottom of the sixth on a two-run single off the bat of catcher Danny Canela, but Faulkner tacked on four more in the top of the eighth.
Dauris Holguin and Zak Colby each had two-run doubles in that frame to help the Eagles open up a five-run lead.
That was more than enough for Esquibel, who notched his fifth complete game of the season for Faulkner, allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits. He struck out eight and did not walk a batter.
“Julian deserves all of the success he’s had,” McCarthy said. “He’s gotten better and better every time he’s gone out and has shown that he can perform in big games.”
Colby, Sergio Sanchez and Cayleb Coker each had multi-hit games for the Eagles, while Brady Renner notched a pair of base hits for Lee.
The Flames’ Brandon Rader hit his fourth home run of the season in the third inning to account for Lee’s first run in a losing cause.
The 57th annual Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series is a 10-team, double-elimination event hosted by Lewis-Clark State College. For more information on the World Series, click here.