NAIA: Lewis-Clark State Completes Three-Peat

NAIA powerhouse Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) won its third straight title and seventh in the last 10 years by twice defeating top-seeded Lee (Tenn.) in the championship round of the 2008 Avista NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho. The title is the Warriors’ 16th national championship in school history–the most among all NAIA members–and reaffirms LCSC as the premier dynasty in college baseball.

The top of LCSC’s order fueled an 8-3 victory over the Flames in the second game of the championship round. Brent Wyatt, Josh Ashenbrenner, Kyle Greene and Brian Ward combined to hit 9-for-19 in the contest, driving in four runs. The Warriors also used a trio of pitchers to stifle the Flames, allowing seven hits and just two earned runs.

Ward collected three hits and drove in two runs on his way to capturing the tournament’s MVP honors. Over six games, the junior catcher batted .444 with three homers and eight RBIs, also leading all tournament participants in doubles (five) and total bases (23).

Ward joins four teammates on the all-tournament team, including senior third baseman Kyle Greene, senior infielder Ikaika Lester, junior righthander Matt Fitts and senior righthander Justin Mace.

This is the fourth time in NAIA World Series history that a school has three-peated, and the first since LCSC won five straight titles between 1987-92. With consecutive victories over Lee in the championship round, the Warriors improved their overall season record to 58-7. They are also 5-0 in their last five national championship game appearances.

To reach the deciding game, the Warriors first needed some ninth-inning heroics in the first game. With Lee just two strikes away from winning its first national title, LCSC rallied from three runs down, capped off by a go-ahead RBI double from Ward that clinched a 7-6 victory and forced both teams to take Harris Field once more the following day. Ward also hit two longballs earlier in the game to keep the Warriors within striking distance.

The Warriors were faced with an early exit from the double-elimination tournament when Lee defeated LCSC 5-2 prior to the semifinals, snapping the Warriors’ seven-game winning streak in the World Series. LCSC proved resilient, however, winning three straight elimination games to take the title.

Lee, looking to become the first No. 1 seed to win the World Series since 2003, was undefeated in tournament play before dropping two in a row to LCSC. Lee finished 63-10 on the season.

The all-tournament team also featured a foursome from Lee, including junior first baseman Chris Warters, junior shortstop Brian Bistagne, senior center fielder Jeremy Hutslar and junior righthander Pablo Lopez. Hutslar also received the Charlie Hustle Award and the Bistagne Gold Glove Award.