LEWISTON, Idaho – Riding the bat of Kyle Blackwell and the left arm of Anthony Armanino, the Lewis-Clark State baseball team got off to a smashing start at the 2013 Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series, defeating Rogers State 6-1 on Friday night in front of 2,975 at Harris Field.
Blackwell (pictured left) hit his first two home runs in a Warrior uniform in his first World Series game, connecting once in the first inning and again in the eighth to help lift LCSC into a scintillating Saturday matchup with No. 2 seed Lee (Tenn.) at 6:30 p.m.
His first homer, a three-run shot to left field off RSU starter Shawn Spainhoward, injected a bolt of energy into the boisterous home crowd, and hopefully set the tone for a deep run through the 10-team bracket.
Armanino spun a complete-game four-hitter, striking out 10 and walking six on 145 pitches in a gritty performance.
After struggling to find his command in the first three innings, when he gave up two of his four hits, the senior southpaw took a deep breath and went to work.
“He was really jacked up to pitch tonight, probably a little too jacked up,” Warrior coach Jeremiah Robbins said of Armanino, who improved to 10-3 on the season with the victory Friday. “When he got tired it forced him to focus on just pitching. As he went through the game he got more confident and got better and better.”
Armanino (pictured right) allowed just one hit between the second and sixth innings, and worked out of jams all night long. His pitch count can be put into perspective by the fact that he threw 51 pitches through three innings and 94 in the final six.
“The kid was wildly effective,” Rogers State coach Ron Bradley said of Armanino. “We had scoring opportunities in the first three innings that we couldn’t take advantage of, and we had in on the brink of being out of the game. He just started pounding the zone and really cruised from the fourth inning on.”
But for all Blackwell and Armanino did to get the Warriors the win on Friday, both coaches agreed that Bobby Joe Tannehill’s two-run double in the seventh inning off Spainhoward that pushed LCSC’s lead from 3-1 to 5-1 may have been the difference in the game.
“That really changed the momentum of the game,” Bradley said. “We were hanging tough at 3-1 and historically this has been a team that wins close games. That double took the air out of us.”
“We did a heck of a job bunting guys around with one out, and Bobby put the nail in the coffin a little bit,” Robbins said.
But if Tannehill’s double broke the Hillcats’ back, Blackwell’s three-run blast was the initial sprain.
“It’s huge to come out and get three in the first inning in a game like this,” Robbins said. “It gets everyone excited and gets the monkey off our backs a little bit.”
The Warriors will have a stiff challenge against Lee on Saturday night, but a win could put them in the driver’s seat heading toward the semifinals and beyond.
“It’s a big test. They’re a good club that does everything well,” Robbins said. “We’ll put more into how we’re going to attack them when we wake up tomorrow. They’ll be gunning for us, but we’ll be doing the same to them.”
Video: Postgame Interviews