LEWISTON, Idaho – The Lewis-Clark State College baseball team will have the chance to bring its 17th national championship to Lewiston.
The Warriors got a gritty start from Anthony Armanino on short rest, and their offense continued to shine in a 13-7 victory over No. 3 seed Embry-Riddle in the first of two semifinals at the 2013 Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series on Wednesday at Harris Field.
The game started 30 minutes late due to wet weather in the Lewiston area, and was halted for another 34 minutes in the bottom of the eighth inning after a lightning strike.
None of that stopped the Warrior offense, which pounded out 16 hits off four Eagle pitchers. Embry-Riddle came into Wednesday’s game with a team earned run average of 2.62, the second-best in the tournament field.
“It’s always been there, but for whatever reason it’s really coming out now,” said LCSC right fielder Cody Lavalli of the team’s offensive capabilities.
Lavalli snapped a 3-for-18 Series skid with a home run and two runs scored on Thursday.
“Our coaches have been telling me that every day is a new game and every at-bat is new,” Lavalli said. “It’s just been about staying positive, but it felt good to hit a relief to hit a ball square.”
The Warriors schedule over the next two days will be determined by the outcome of Wednesday’s other semifinal between Faulkner, the field’s lone remaining unbeaten team, and No. 2 seed Lee.
If Faulkner wins, the Warriors will have to beat the Eagles twice to win the title. If Lee beats Faulkner, the two teams will play again tomorrow for the right to play LCSC in a winner-take-all title game on Friday.
Lewis-Clark State (45-14) was able to answer every rally made by Embry-Riddle (50-15), finally taking the lead to stay in a five-run fifth inning.
With the Eagles leading 3-2 after four frames, Lewis-Clark State took advantage of two errors, a hit batsman and a bases-loaded walk by Embry-Riddle in the fifth to take a 7-3 lead.
Brian Corliss, pinch-hitting for ailing second baseman Jacob Cano, delivered a two-run single to left-center to cap the outburst. Corliss went 3-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBI in reserve duty against Embry-Riddle, exemplifying the Warriors’ next-man-up mentality.
“Our team is so tough. When Brian Corliss got an opportunity to play late in that game, he came through with one of his best games of the season. Our guys just prepare themselves the right way. They’re always ready,” Robbins said. “It’s been a battle for us all year with injuries, and at times we look a little funny limping around out there, but heart never limps.”
The Warriors continued to tack on runs against the Embry-Riddle bullpen, scoring twice in each of the sixth, seventh and ninth innings.
“Once our guys get into a team’s bullpen, they just seem to be more relaxed in the batter’s box,” Robbins said. “We did that today and were able to extend a few innings against their bullpen.”
Brady Steiger went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBI for the Warriors, and Bobby Joe Tannehill went 2-for-3, taking over the Series lead in batting average (.579) and RBI (eight).
Ryan Sells, Lavalli, Kyle Knigge and Corliss also had multi-hit games for LCSC.
Armanino improved to 11-3 on the season with the victory, allowing five runs (four earned) on six hits. He struck out three and walked two.
“I think those could have been the best five innings of his career here. If we don’t get that from Anthony, we’re not in the situation we’re in,” Robbins said. “He hadn’t pitched on four days’ rest at all this season and it was tough for him coming off a big pitch count in his last start, but he’s a true Warrior. I think he’ll go down as one of the best pitchers in our history.”
The Warriors are thrilled to be steps away from securing the 17th national championship in the program’s illustrious history.
“We’re obviously thrilled to be in the position we’re in, but there’s still a lot of baseball to play,” Robbins said. “We’re still controlling our own destiny, which a great thing to be able to say at this point in the season.”