2024 NAIA World Series Preview: Predictions, Breaking Down Every Team


It is once again time for the 2024 World Series! The highlight of the year is set to begin on Friday at Harris Field in Lewiston, Idaho. 2024 has been a year of firsts across the nation, and the World Series is experiencing some new occurrences that haven’t happened in this century. In the Opening Round tournament, we saw incredible comebacks, lights-out performances, and history in the making. Kansas Wesleyan and Arizona Christian make their first-ever trips to Lewiston, while the rest of the field has all been here before.

If you have followed NAIA Ball for a while, you’ll notice this field is different. For the first time since 1998, the Warriors of Lewis-Clark State did not qualify for the tournament, and for the first time ever, the World Series will be held in Lewiston without the host school. Additionally, we look to crown a new national champion in 2024. This World Series looks like it could be one of the most offense-filled series in history within the hitter-friendly confines of Harris Field. Five of the teams featured rank in the top 10 in home runs nationally this season. It should be one of the most exciting World Series to watch since our friend Cody Butler started NAIA Ball in 2017.

The tournament kicks off Friday morning. You can get all of your news, stats, highlights, and nightly recaps with us on ‘X’ (formerly Twitter) by following us @naiaball. We will be live each night of the World Series to cover all the happenings of the day. Let’s get into the action with a breakdown of every single team in the World Series, a look at our top 10 hitters and pitchers in Lewiston, and then we’ll pick the Day 1 winners, as well as our staff picks for the National Champion. Here is the NAIA Ball World Series preview:


1. Southeastern (FL)

Team info: Lakeland, Florida
National Champions: 2018 & 2022
World Series Appearances: 6th (6 straight)
Record: 51-6 (22-2 Sun Conference)
Head coach: Adrian Dinkle (7th season)
Team Avg: .317 (37th nationally)
Team ERA: 2.70 (1st nationally)

Top Hitters

  • Isaac Nunez: .340 avg, 65 H, 14 HR, 57 RBI
  • Gary Lora: .306 avg, 53 H, 12 HR, 45 RBI
  • Josh Pigozzo: .335 avg, 60 H, 12 HR, 39 RBI

Top Pitchers

  • Darien Smith: 1.81 ERA, 89.1 IP, 12-0, 126 K
  • Robb Adams: 2.20 ERA, 81.2 IP, 8-2, 83 K
  • Ramsey David: 2.56 ERA, 59.2 IP, 6-1, 84 K


Consistency has been the key for Southeastern over the years. Despite the changing landscape of collegiate athletics, the Fire, led by Adrian Dinkle, have achieved a 50-plus win season in each of the last seven full seasons (2020 excluded, but SEU was 26-1). Scheduling has been a big part of that success. The Fire have already faced two World Series opponents: Hope International (9-1 SEU win) and Reinhardt (Reinhardt won the series 2-1). They also faced nine different teams who made the Opening Round tournament this season, and one of the top Division II teams nationally in the University of Tampa.

The Fire are well-tested coming into the World Series and boast a pitching staff that is tops nationally in earned run average, with three regular starters who are ace material. Darien Smith is a frontrunner for national pitcher of the year, Robb Adams has epitomized consistency, and seniors Gary Lora and Isaac Nunez are long-term mainstays of a lineup that’s garnered nearly 600 hits in 57 games.

Winning in Lewiston takes a combination of several things: great pitching, timely hitting, and a little bit of luck. Often, it’s not the best team who wins in Lewiston, but the team who plays the best tournament. We’ve seen a lot of really talented teams over the years, and this Southeastern squad is among them. Their offense hasn’t put up the gaudy numbers we are used to seeing, but they still average over eight runs a game, with a truly elite pitching staff.

They’ll still need to play the games and put it all together, but Southeastern brings plenty of big game experience to Lewiston that could help them play deep into the World Series.

Robby Gutierrez

2. Georgia Gwinnett

Team info: Lawrenceville, Georgia
National Champions: 2021
World Series Appearances: 7
Record: 51-7 (Continental Athletic Conference)
Head coach: Jeremy Sheetinger (5th season)
Team Avg: .387 (1st nationally)
Team ERA: 3.50 (4th nationally)

Top Hitters

  • Ajay Szepckowski: .442 avg, 84 H, 90 RBI, 19 HR, 49 SB
  • Blaze O’Saben: .454 avg, 104 H, 82 RBI, 14 HR, 50 SB
  • Braxton Meguiar: .385 avg, 82 H, 60 RBI, 33 SB

Top Pitchers

  • Gage Williams: 86 IP, 4.92 ERA, 11-1, 123 K
  • Ben Harris: 82 IP, 2.52 ERA, 10-1, 94 K
  • Kaleb Hill: 80.2 IP, 2.52 ERA, 10-1, 1 SV, 92 K


In an Opening Round that featured some wild results, one of the bigger comebacks belonged to Georgia Gwinnett in the if-necessary game vs Faulkner (AL). Down to their final out in a 6-2 deficit, GGC went hit by pitch, walk, hit by pitch, hit by pitch, a bases-clearing Jackson Cobb double, then an E6 to score Cobb, and the Grizzlies pulled off an almost improbable comeback. Jeremy Sheetinger’s squad will head to Lewiston for their 4th straight trip, and the Grizzlies know they are in contention for another national title.

The offense is an electric one for GGC, and once they are on base, you can expect them to be looking to take another 90 feet as no other team has stolen more bases this season. On the mound, the Grizzlies are anchored with three solid starting pitchers in Gage Williams, Ben Harris, and Kaleb Hill. As the Grizzlies play later into the tournament, expect Tyler Clayton to be a big arm to watch; he’s 8-0 this year in 60-plus innings pitched, with an earned run average just above 3.

Georgia Gwinnett went 0-2 in the 2023 World Series but returned the 2023 NAIA Ball Lou Brock Award Player of the Year in Ajay Szepkowski. The Grizzlies have plenty of players with big game and Lewiston experience. Ultimately, this is a team that can make a deep run in this tournament, and as the 2nd overall seed, you would expect them to. The expectations have always been high in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and this squad expects themselves to be one of the clubs playing late into the tournament with a chance for a national title.

Robby Gutierrez

3. Cumberlands (KY)

Team Info: Williamsburg, Kentucky
2nd World Series Appearance (2nd straight appearance)
Record: 51-6
Head Coach: Brad Shelton (22nd season)
Team Avg: .366 (2nd nationally)
Team ERA: 3.98 (6th nationally)

Top Hitters

  • Charlie Muniz: .392 avg, 85 H, 34 HR, 96 RBI
  • Evan St. Claire: .420 avg, 92 H, 22 2B, 19 HR, 95 RBI
  • Max Harper: .369 avg, 76 H, 21 HR, 70 RBI

Top Pitchers

  • Cesar Avila: 2.66 ERA, 81.1 IP, 114 K
  • Knicko Billings: 3.21 ERA, 75.2 IP, 99 K
  • Chipper Korbacher: 2.11 ERA, 21.1 IP, 31 K, 11 SV


The Cumberlands Patriots are making their second consecutive appearance in Lewiston. After an 0-2 performance at the World Series last year, Coach Brad Shelton’s club rolled through the regular season and NAIA Opening Round at their home venue, defeating Park (MO), Loyola (LA), and Saint Francis (IN) on their road to Lewiston.

The Patriots boast one of the top offenses in the nation, outscoring their Opening Round opponents 52-14, and are led by NAIA Ball Lou Brock Player Of The Year candidate Charlie Muniz. The junior from Puerto Rico has launched 77 career home runs as he rounds out his third season in Williamsburg, needing just four more home runs to tie the single-season NAIA record of 38 set by Beau Mills of Lewis-Clark State in 2007. Muniz is not alone in the lineup as they lead the nation with 141 home runs on the year, and feature four different hitters with over 15 long balls as they have slugged their way back to Lewiston.

Cesar Avila and Knicko Billings come into the World Series as one of the best one-two punches on the mound in the country, leading a staff with an ERA of 3.98 that sits at sixth in the nation. Avila was recently named Mid-South Conference Pitcher Of The Year and comes in with a 12-0 record and a 2.66 ERA on the year while leading the staff with 114 strikeouts. Billings sits just one strikeout shy of 100 on the season and has been a very strong arm to follow up Avila in the rotation. In the bullpen for the Patriots is Chipper Korbacher, who has been one of the best closers in the nation this season with 11 saves and a 2.11 ERA, while opponents are hitting just .129 off the right-hander from California.

After finally breaking through last year, Cumberlands certainly can use the experience gained in 2023 as they make the trip to Lewiston this season having won 19 out of their last 20 games. Cumberlands will get a familiar foe in their first-round matchup with the Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs, as the two teams faced off back on February 27th, which saw the Patriots fall 9-4. With both teams playing their best baseball at the right time, Friday has all the makings of what should be an incredible Day 1 in Lewiston.

Taylor Thomas

4. Hope International

Team Info: Fullerton, California
2nd World Series Appearance (2017 last appearance)
Record: 40-15
Head Coach: Larry Mahoney (3rd Season)
Team Avg: .321 (31st nationally)
Team ERA: 4.81 (26th nationally)

Top Hitters:

  • JJ Cruz: .408 avg, 89 H, 20 2B, 12 HR, 70 RBI
  • David Rivera: .389 avg, 81 H, 20 2B, 12 HR, 53 RBI
  • Alex Moreno: .387 avg, 75 H, 22 2B, 6 HR, 43 RBI

Top Pitchers:

  • Justin Drury: 3.41 ERA, 63.1 IP, 61 K
  • Trey Seeley: 3.95 ERA, 82 IP, 116 K
  • Steven Ordorica: 2.88 ERA, 40.2 IP, 40 K

The Hope International Royals are making their second trip to Lewiston in program history. In just his third season as head coach, Larry Mahoney led the Royals to the Golden State Athletic Conference Regular Season Title, earning them a #1 seed in the Opening Round in Fayette, Missouri. The Royals succeeded on the road, defeating Northwestern Ohio, Central Methodist (MO), and Tabor (KS) to secure their place in Lewiston.

Hope International boasts a potent offense, ranking third in the nation with 141 doubles. JJ Cruz, David Rivera, and Alex Moreno have been instrumental, combining for 62 of those doubles. Their ability to consistently put runners in scoring position makes them a formidable opponent.

On the mound, Trey Seeley and Justin Drury have been key contributors. Seeley, with 116 strikeouts, has been exceptional, especially during the Opening Round. Drury, with a 9-0 record, has been effective by pitching to contact and limiting walks. Steven Ordorica and Boom Ward have provided strong support from the bullpen, both maintaining sub-3 ERAs.

The Royals face a challenging first game against the Reinhardt Eagles, a team known for its potent offense. Hope International will need to leverage its hitting and solid pitching to make a significant impact in Lewiston.

Taylor Thomas

5. Reinhardt (GA)

Team Info: Waleska, Georgia
2nd World Series Appearance (1st since 2018)
Record: 41-16
Head Coach: Jonathan Burton (6th Season)
Team Avg: .335 (13th nationally)
Team ERA: 5.60 (56th nationally)

Top Hitters:

  • Dylan Lewis: .431 avg, 88 H, 69 RBI, 21 HR
  • Nash Crowell: .359 avg, 71 H, 69 RBI, 23 HR
  • Tucker Zdunich: .352 avg, 75 H, 56 RBI, 16 HR

Top Pitchers:

  • Andrew Herbert: 1.81 ERA, 74.2 IP, 10-1, 80 K
  • Brett Allen: 2.61 ERA, 76 IP, 5-1, 7 saves, 75 K

The Eagles of Reinhardt (GA) had a rocky start, going 0-4 initially and 4-6 in their first 10 games before entering Appalachian Athletic Conference play. Their season turned around in early March with a sweep of conference foe Tennessee Wesleyan, another World Series participant. Since April 19th, the Eagles have a 13-2 record and scored 36 runs in their Opening Round tournament.

Reinhardt’s offense is robust, ranking 13th nationally in average, with standout performances from Dylan Lewis, Nash Crowell, Tucker Zdunich, and Jarrett Burney. Andrew Herbert leads the pitching staff with a stellar 1.81 ERA, ranking among the best nationally. Brett Allen has been a versatile and reliable reliever, with 28 appearances, 76 innings pitched, and 7 saves.

The Eagles have faced and performed well against top competition, including World Series participants and multiple Opening Round teams. With their recent strong form and a battle-tested roster, Reinhardt is poised to make a deep run. Their opening game against Hope International promises to be a compelling matchup, showcasing two strong teams.

Congratulations are due to head coach Jonathan Burton, who joins an elite group of coaches to take two different programs (Lindsey Wilson & Reinhardt) to the World Series. He is the third active coach to achieve this feat, alongside Adrian Dinkle (Sterling & Southeastern) and Jeremy Kennedy (Northwood-TX & Keiser).

Conner Darnell & Robby Gutierrez

6. Tennessee Wesleyan

Team Info: Athens, Tennessee
2012 & 2019 National Champions
7th World Series Appearance
Record: 40-16 (23-7 Appalachian Athletic Conference)
Head Coach: Billy Berry (17th season)
Team Avg: .325 (27th nationally)
Team ERA: 4.63 (22nd nationally)

Top Hitters:

  • Braxton Turner: .342 avg, 69 H, 42 RBI, 17 HR
  • Jack Stevens: .356 avg, 72 H, 53 RBI, 11 HR
  • Marco Martinez: .339 avg, 63 H, 55 RBI, 13 HR

Top Pitchers:

  • Blake Peyton: 2.03 ERA, 75.1 IP, 9-1, 1 SV, 126 K
  • Gage Vailes: 3.45 ERA, 57.1 IP, 3-2, 6 SV, 56 K
  • Sam Rochard: 4.06 ERA, 71 IP, 7-2, 68 K


Tennessee Wesleyan opened the season 5-5 and faced two potential World Series opponents early, going 1-1 against Hope International (15-8 win) and Arizona Christian (12-3 loss). They also played four games against in-conference rival and World Series team Reinhardt (GA), going 1-3, and had notable matchups against Georgia Gwinnett and Cumberlands (KY).

Coach Billy Berry scheduled tough opponents to prepare the Bulldogs for a run at Lewiston. Offensively, TWU lacks a standout big bat but relies on a cohesive unit. Blake Peyton, with a 2.03 ERA and 126 strikeouts, anchors the pitching staff. Senior leadership from players like Braxton Turner and Marco Martinez provides stability and confidence. Their opening match against Cumberlands (KY) will be crucial, as both teams have faced each other before, setting the stage for a competitive game with major tournament implications.

Robby Gutierrez

7. William Carey

Team Info: Hattiesburg, Mississippi
1969 National Champions
3rd World Series Appearance
Record: 37-14
Head Coach: Bobby Halford (since 1987)
Team Avg: .289 (104th nationally)
Team ERA: 5.19 (36th nationally)

Top Hitters

  • RJ Stinson: .403 avg, 77 H, 50 RBI
  • Jake Lycette: .293 avg, 51 H, 60 RBI
  • Bailee Hendon: .289 avg, 55 H, 10 HR

Top Pitchers

  • Dario Herrera: 4.73 ERA, 70.1 IP, 87 K
  • Andrew Shirah: 5.15 ERA, 71.2 IP, 51 K
  • John Snyder: 1.23 ERA, 29.1 IP, 13 SV


William Carey University, led by experienced coach Bobby Halford, returns to Lewiston for the second consecutive year after sweeping the NAIA Opening Round at their home venue. The Crusaders outscored their opponents 41-14, showcasing their offensive prowess.

Senior outfielder RJ Stinson has been a key player, hitting .403 with 50 RBIs. Jake Lycette and Bailee Hendon provide additional power and run production. On the mound, Dario Herrera and Andrew Shirah have been reliable starters, while closer John Snyder has been dominant with a 1.23 ERA and 13 saves.

The Crusaders’ experience from last year’s World Series could play a pivotal role. Despite a modest team batting average of .289, they are currently on an 11-game winning streak. Their first game against Indiana Southeast, another hot team, will be a significant test.

Milan van der Breggen

8. Kansas Wesleyan

Team Info: Salina, Kansas
1st World Series Appearance in program history
Record: 48-10 (32-4 KCAC Conference)
Head Coach: Bill Neale (10th season)
Team Avg: .327 (24th nationally)
Team ERA: 4.26 (14th nationally)

Top Hitters

  • Jarrett Gable: .386 avg, 93 H, 19 HR, 76 RBI
  • Cruz Oxford: .354 avg, 69 H, 8 HR, 53 RBI
  • Kendall Foster: .353 avg, 67 H, 23 HR, 61 RBI

Top Pitchers

  • Jarrett Brannen: 3.94 ERA, 77.2 IP, 11-1, 77 K
  • Brett Maddock: 5.35 ERA, 77.1 IP, 9-2, 75 K
  • Zach Westbrook: 3.38 ERA, 34.2 IP, 6-1, 37 K


Kansas Wesleyan is making its program debut in the World Series after achieving a record 48 wins this season. They swept through the Shreveport Bracket despite losing starting pitcher Nathan Righi to injury, with senior Zach Westbrook stepping up in his absence. The Coyotes are ranked 2nd nationally in home runs, led by senior shortstop Jarrett Gable, who has hit 56 homers in three years.

The Coyotes are a gritty, veteran squad that has excelled in the competitive Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference. Their high-powered offense and experienced roster make them a formidable opponent. Kansas Wesleyan will need to maintain their current high level of play to make a deep tournament run.

Tyler Norris

9. Arizona Christian University

Team Info: Glendale, Arizona
1st World Series Appearance
Record: 36-19
Head Coach: Joe McDonald
Team Avg: .327 (T-23rd nationally)
Team ERA: 5.21 (37th nationally)

Top Hitters

  • Marques Titialii: .384 avg, 83 H, 24 HR, 83 RBI
  • Jared Anderson: .326 avg, 71 H, 41 RBI, 26 XBH
  • Trey Tarver: .343 avg, 70 H, 44 RBI, 12 HR

Top Pitchers:

  • Eli Elliot: 3.20 ERA, 76 IP, 99 K, 7-4
  • Adrian Santa Cruz: 4.09 ERA, 70.1 IP, 10 K, 9-4


Arizona Christian entered the postseason uncertain but earned an at-large bid. In the Opening Round, they routed Oklahoma City and Lewis-Clark State, with standout performances from Adrian Santa Cruz and Jared Anderson.

The Firestorm have a strong lineup led by Marques Titialii, who has been a consistent power hitter. The key to their success in Lewiston will be their pitching depth, particularly how well Santa Cruz and Eli Elliot perform against strong offenses. Arizona Christian faces a challenging opener against Kansas Wesleyan.

Tyson Wallace

10. Indiana University Southeast

Team Info: New Albany, Indiana
World Series Appearances: 2nd
Record: 36-18
Head Coach: Brett Neffendorf (1st season at IU Southeast)
Team Avg: .317 (38th nationally)
Team ERA: 5.19 (37th nationally)

Top Hitters

  • Mason White: .423 AVG, 88 H, 17 HR, 73 RBI
  • Colin Long: .372 AVG, 64 H, 15 2B
  • Ethan Burdette: .364 AVG, 60 H

Top Pitchers

  • Luke Schafer: 2.51 ERA, 97 IP, 112 SO
  • Garrett Hill: 2.27 ERA, 35.2 IP, 7 SV


Despite entering the NAIA World Series as the 10th seed, the Grenadiers of Indiana University Southeast are riding a wave of momentum, having swept the Opening Round in Upland, Indiana. Their impressive run included a stunning comeback in the ninth inning against Indiana Tech, where they scored 12 runs with two outs to secure the victory.

Coach Brett Neffendorf has had a remarkable debut season with the Grenadiers, leading them to the top of the River States Conference’s West division and a strong showing in the conference tournament. The team’s lineup is spearheaded by senior utility player Mason White, whose left-handed hitting prowess has been a driving force behind the team’s success. On the mound, Luke Schafer has been a dominant force, boasting an impressive 2.51 ERA and recording an impressive 112 strikeouts in 97 innings pitched. Closer Garrett Hill has also been reliable, notching seven saves with a 2.27 ERA. The Grenadiers are poised to extend their four-game win streak as they face off against the hot Crusaders of William Carey University in what promises to be a thrilling opening game of the national tournament.

— Milan van der Breggen

NAIA World Series Predictions

Day 1 predictions-

No. 8 Kansas Wesleyan vs No.9 Arizona Christian

Robby- ACU
Conner- KWU
Tyler- KWU
Taylor- KWU

No. 4 Hope International (CA) vs No. 5 Reinhardt (GA)

Robby- HIU
Conner- Reinhardt
Tyler- Reinhardt
Taylor- Reinhardt

No. 3 Cumberlands (KY) vs No. 6 Tennessee Wesleyan

Robby- UC
Conner- UC
Tyler- TWU
Taylor- UC

No. 7 William Carey (MS) vs No. 10 Indiana Southeast

Robby- WCU
Conner- IUS
Tyler- IUS
Taylor- IUS

First Round bye- #1 Southeastern (FL) & #2 Georgia Gwinnett


Robby- Southeastern (FL)
Conner-Southeastern (FL)
Tyler- Southeastern (FL)
Taylor- Southeastern (FL)

I’ll say this… We all chose Southeastern (FL) last year and that didn’t happen so there is that. The great
thing about the World Series is you can’t just be the most talented team to win it. You need a
combination of great pitching, some timely hitting, and just a bit of luck to win it all in Lewiston. This
should be one of the greatest World Series we’ve seen between the incredible arms, the electric
offenses, and the chance to crown a new national champion. We here at NAIA Ball will have you covered throughout the entire World Series!

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