NAIA Update: Winner Take All

Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) needed all nine innings on Thursday to keep its drive for a three-peat alive, scoring three runs in the final frame to defeat Lee (Tenn.) and force a deciding championship game in the Avista NAIA World Series. The schools will take Harris Field for the final time tonight to play the rematch, which is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. (PST). Down by two runs heading into the top of the ninth, Chris Valencia and Bernard Pena led off the inning with two base knocks for LCSC before Kyle Greene hit a two-run single to shallow left-center. The tie was broken when Brian Ward found a gap in the outfield to double home Greene, making the score 7-6 in favor of the Warriors.

Righthander Matt Fitts came back out to pitch the final three outs to earn his 13th victory of the season in complete-game fashion, striking out 10 and allowing four earned runs. The win made Fitts, the team’s top draft prospect, the school’s second pitcher to go 13-0 in a season since Chuck Higson compiled such a mark in 1988. The win total is also good enough to tie the Warriors’ single-season record.

The ninth inning heroics were made possible by Ward’s own earlier in the game, homering in both the fourth and sixth innings to keep LCSC within striking distance. On the day, Ward went 3-for-5 two home runs, three RBIs and two runs scored. Going into the game, Lee was undefeated in tournament play, having defeated LCSC 5-2 on Tuesday to extend their winning streak to nine games dating back to the Region XIII tournament. A win yesterday would have clinched the Flames’ first World Series title; instead, the loss means LSCS can chase down their 16th overall championship in the school’s history.