There were some obvious highlights in the Lewis-Clark State baseball team's 7-1 subduing of Whitworth. It was the Warriors' 18th consecutive victory and Justin Fuller shoved his hitting streak to 25 games -- two trends that are now flirting with the L-C record book.
But the crucial development -- in terms of the Warriors' plans for the NAIA World Series -- was pitcher Nick Seely's powerhouse relief performance. The right-handed senior has been tabbed L-C's chief stopper come the national tournament, and his appearance Friday seemed to justify that status.
After muddling through the first half of the evening, the Warriors pulled away with two runs in the sixth and four in the eighth. The pivotal blows were homers from Jose Rodriguez (his sixth of the season) and Brandon Morris (his team-leading 14th).
The Warriors (46-7) will stage a doubleheader with Whitworth (13-24) today at 1 p.m. at Harris Field. Beyond that, L-C has just four games remaining in the regular season.
With the Series three weeks away, the Warriors' bullpen seems to be the weakest link on a club pulsing with talent. But Seely, with his blazing fastball and tricky slider, limited the Pirates to two hits during his 33 innings. He also chalked up six strikeouts.
"Our bullpen is still a concern," LCSC coach Ed Cheff said, "but we're starting to feel a little bit better about it."
Seely's fastball had its usual velocity, and his slider was sharp if a little unpredictable (he hit a batter to lead off the eighth). Seely said that he is at his best when he can pump his slider in for strikes.
A broken hand shelved Seely during last year's Series. So this time, he's simply happy to be in uniform.
"I like coming in whenever I'm needed," said the Eureka, Calif., native. "It's just nice to pitch."
In the first inning, Fuller squashed any drama surrounding his hit streak, lacing the first pitch he saw into left for a double. His string of 25 games ties him with Toby Cheff for third in school history. (Cheff's streak came during the 1999 season.)
Rodriguez, the next batter, plated Fuller with another two-bagger.
But the Warriors fumbled away a handful of scoring chances over the next few innings. Whitworth tied things at 1-all off Josh Taylor's RBI single in the sixth.
L-C answered with Rodriguez's solo homer to left to open the bottom of the sixth. During his first two at-bats, the Pirates had started the third baseman with inside pitches.
"Then the third at-bat, I figured they were going to do it again," Rodriguez said. "And I got a hold of it."
Friday's two bombs give the Warriors 73 for the season -- an improvement over last year's tally of 54.
"Last year, we didn't have that many home runs, but we had a lot of heart," Rodriguez said. "This year, hopefully we have a combination of both. We have power and we've got guys who want to play hard, and that's leading us toward the right way."
Up 3-1, L-C locked the win with its burst in the eighth. Morris' smash -- a somewhat rare opposite-field blast by the right-handed batter -- led off the inning. Pinch-hitter Daniel Ruberte and Fuller added run-scoring singles.
NOTES -- Fuller has a chance to tie the hit-streak record in today's doubleheader. Matt Hellman (2001) is second at 26 and John McAninch (1995) is first at 27. ... Speaking of streaks, Rodriguez has now notched at least one RBI in 10 consecutive outings. ... The Warriors plan on running through a number of pitchers today. Among the hurlers will likely be Rob Williams, who is returning from injury.