LEWISTON, Idaho – With warm weather, a big crowd, and a very strong opponent, Saturday’s baseball game at Harris Field had a definite Avista-NAIA World Series feel to it. And if Saturday is any indication, the Lewis-Clark State College baseball team is more than capable of rising to any occasion and overpowering any opponent.
Facing the NCAA Division III’s top-ranked team, the Warriors, ranked No. 10 in the NAIA, exploded for a season-high 22 hits to pound Linfield College 20-8. The victory snapped Linfield’s 11 game win streak and put a dent in its sterling 33-6 record.
“It’s a good win. A good win to have this time of year too,” first-year LCSC head coach Jeremiah Robbins said. “We’ve been playing pretty inconsistent, so to get a good performance from our guys, from the top to the bottom, was nice to see against a very quality opponent. They’re No. 1 in the nation for a reason.”
Video: Postgame interview with Coach Robbins
LCSC, now 39-13, sprayed the ball to all fields against Linfield ace Aaron Thomasssen, batting through the lineup in both the third and the fourth inning.
Thomassen, who entered the game undefeated and with a 1.51 earned run average, surrendered nine hits and 10 earned runs in three innings of work. The right-hander is now 10-1 on the year.
“It comes from a good week of practice,” Robbins said about his team’s performance at the plate. “I thought this was one of our better weeks of really coming to the field, for the four days that we got out here, and having a purpose and a passion to get better in the game. And the results showed that today.”
With ample run support, including 15 runs by the fourth inning, Warrior starter Anthony Armanino (9-3) held the powerful Linfield lineup at bay to cruise to the win. He went six innings and threw exactly 100 pitches, allowing seven hits and four runs while striking out six.
Eight Warriors finished with multiple hits, but no hits traveled farther than the home run blasts of Kyle Knigge, Cody Lavalli, and Bobby Joe Tannehill in the fourth, sixth, and eighth, respectively. It was Knigge’s first of the year, Lavalli’s team-leading ninth, and Tannehill’s seventh.
Kyle Blackwell, who had a game-high four RBI’s, was 4-for-4, and Jake Shirley, Tannehill, and Eric Peterson added three hits apiece. All of Peterson’s hits were doubles.
The game, which was part of the two-day, four-team Inland Cellular Tournament was played in front of season-high attendance of 415. The crowd included a number of area Little Leagers who received free admission as part of a promotion sponsored by Inland Cellular.
The Warriors seemed to gain extra energy from the fans on Saturday.
“The opportunity to put on the Warrior uniform and play quality opponents should get you excited. And I also think our guys got excited about how many people were at the game today. I got excited. I like seeing people out, and we had the Little League Night with the Little Leaguers here and we put on a good show for them.”
If the 2013 Warriors enjoy playing in front of large crowds they’ll love the NAIA World Series, held May 24-31 at Harris Field. Last year 3,115 attended LCSC’s opening game and crowds have swelled to over 5,000 on multiple occasions, including a record 5,530 in 2008’s title game.
In the two other games at Harris Field on Saturday, Pacific Lutheran University fell to Linfield 7-3 and to Whitworth University 6-0.
The tournament will continue with three more games on Sunday. Linfield and Whitworth will play at 11 a.m., Pacific Lutheran and LCSC at 2 p.m., and Whitworth and LCSC at 5 p.m.
“We have a doubleheader tomorrow. We’ll see who we are,” said Robbins. “We have to come out tomorrow with the same approach. The same fire and desire and keep playing that Warrior baseball.”