LEWISTON, Idaho – If there was supposed to be any lingering effects of rust, Todd Muecklisch and the Lewis-Clark State College baseball team didn’t show it.
Despite Muecklisch playing in his first game in more than two months and the Warriors playing a game for the first time in 21 days, it was business as usual for the Warriors this season and they made a successful debut at the 54th annual Avista NAIA World Series with a 10-5 win over Point Loma Nazarene at LCSC’s Harris Field on Saturday night.
Muecklisch, a senior infielder who has been sidelined since March 14 when he was hit by a pitch that broke his arm, went 3-for-5 with three RBI, all coming on a key home run in a seven-run fifth inning. The senior, who was the Gold Glove winner at shortstop during last year’s World Series, played left field on Saturday night, the first time this season he’s played in the outfield. Muecklisch, however, didn’t miss a beat as he slugged his fourth home run of the season, a three-run shot that helped LCSC turn a 3-1 deficit into an 8-3 lead in the fifth.
LCSC also didn’t seem to miss a beat. The Warriors, who earned an automatic berth into the 10-team double-elimination tournament as the host, had a 21-day stretch between its season finale and Series opener on Saturday night. LCSC also was in a new position this season as the top seed, which receives a first-round bye. The Warriors were the final of the 10 teams to see action in the week-long tournament.
Point Loma starter Brandon Dixon kept the Warriors in check with just two hits through four innings. LCSC, now 48-3 overall, broke lose with five hits in the fifth to send Point Loma, the No. 9 seed at 39-19-1, into the loser’s bracket.
Point Loma broke a scoreless tie with three runs in the fourth inning when LCSC starter Tyler Knigge walked the first two batters he faced. After both runners were moved up a base on a sacrifice bunt, Steven Winnick and Drew Bernhard hit RBI singles and Allen Boyer added a sacrifice fly that drove in a run.
LCSC answered in the bottom of the inning when Josh Ashenbrenner hit his 10th home run of the season to make it 3-1.
The Warriors broke free in the fifth. After a ground out started the inning, Kawika Emsley-Pai slugged a solo home run, his fourth of the season. A hit batter and a single by Jason Hague set up Muecklisch’s three-run blast to left field. Ashenbrenner was then hit by a pitch and later scored on a double by Pat Murray. A walk to Brian Burke set up a two-run double by Brian Gaylord.
Bernhard had an RBI double for Point Loma in the sixth, but the Warriors countered with their final two runs in the bottom of the inning for a 10-4 advantage. Muecklisch followed a walk to Hague with a double, and Hague scored when a relay throw on the hit was off line. Ashenbrenner then doubled in Muecklisch.
In all, seven of LCSC’s 10 hits were either doubles or home runs.
Ashenbrenner, who played Muecklisch’s usual position at shortstop, finished 2-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored, while Gaylord also was 2-for-4 with two RBI. Ashenbrenner and Muecklisch combined to go 5-of-9 with five RBI and four runs scored in the top two spots in the batting order.
Alec Martinez went 3-for-4 for Point Loma with a run scored, while Bernhard was 2-for-4 with two RBI. Boyer also finished with two RBI for the Sea Lions.
Knigge, a junior right-hander, picked up the win to improve to 9-0 on the season. He gave up six hits and four runs in 5.2 innings, and also struck out six. Dixon suffered his first loss of the season to fall to 10-1. He allowed seven hits and eight runs through five innings.
Both teams are back in action on Monday. Point Loma will take on fellow Golden State Athletic Conference member California Baptist in a loser-out game at noon, while LCSC will tangle with Lee at 7 p.m.
In other games Monday, Belhaven and Embry Riddle kick off action in loser-out play at 8:30 a.m., while the other winner’s bracket game has Cumberland against Oklahoma City at 3 p.m.