LEWISTON, Idaho -- The No. 2 Bellevue University baseball team became the first team to knock off No. 4 Lewis-Clark State, 8-5, on Wednesday evening at Harris Field in the 2016 Avista-NAIA World Series.
Playing before easily their biggest crowd of the season – 3,890 – Bellevue appeared a tad shaky at the start but seemed to settle in rather quickly.
The home-standing Warriors jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a double down the right field line by J.J. Robinson. Lewis-Clark State then had runners on second and third with just one out but BU starter Ben McKendall was able to avoid further damage and pitch out of the inning.
Bellevue scratched across a run in the second to cut the deficit in half. Joe Mancuso led off the inning by reaching on a throwing error. He advanced to second on a sac bunt from Jake Browne and came in to score a batter later when Matt Evans lined a double into right that the LC defender missed on a diving attempt.
BU pulled level in the third inning. Trevor Jones led off with a single to right, stole second, and advance to third on a sac bunt by Ross Feeley. Joe Moran then followed up with a single into right-center rendering LC State's drawn in infield moot.
The Bruins chased LC starter Tyler Burch after 3.2. Back-to-back two-out doubles brought about the end of the young freshman's night after a surprise start – Burch hadn't pitched in a game since March 31 – and got BU into the Warrior bullpen. The first batter to face reliever David Wilson was Ross Feeley who singled off Wilson's glove to give Bellevue their first lead of the night. Joe Moran followed with a three-run scoring double to the opposite field to give BU a 6-2 lead.
LC State got a run back in the fifth when McKendall's ball four pitch to Robinson squirted by Browne to the backstop. The Warriors added another when Dylan Tashjian – who had been 2-for-2 with a pair of game-winning pinch hits in the tournament – came up with another run-producing swing, grounding into a fielder's choice to score the runner from third. McKendall again avoided further damage by inducing a 6-4-3 double play to escape the inning.
Connor Garrison reached on a one-out single in the sixth, stole second base, and came in to score when Trevor Jones singled through the right side of the infield to push the lead to 7-4.
In the seventh, Gunnar Buhner crushed a ball into the left center gap with runners at first and second but BU caught a break when the ball bounced over the fence for a ground rule double which meant only one Lewis-Clark run would score on the play. At that points BU brought in closer Leland Tilley who got out of the jam when Logan Griffin drilled a ground ball that Mancuso made a diving stop on and won the race to the bag to end the inning.
The Bruins padded their lead with a ninth inning insurance run. Garrison – who's hitting .667 in the tournament – led the inning off with a double and showed off his speed by scoring on a shallow sac fly from Jones to go up 8-5.
McKendall (12-2) earned his 12th win of the season with 5.2 innings of work on the hill. He allowed four earned on eight hits and four walks. He struck out three. Rodriguez threw an effective inning of relief and Tilley earned his ninth save with 2.1 hitless innings and three strikeouts.
The Bruins improve to 16-5 against ranked (or receiving votes) competition on the season with a perfect 4-0 mark against teams ranked No. 4 nationally.
Burch (0-1) took the loss for LC State with 3.2 innings or work. He was charged with four earned runs (five total) on five hits and three walks.
With the win, Bellevue (54-11) matches their highest win total since 2005 when they won 54 games for the second-straight season at the time. The 54 wins accumulated by this year's team are the third most in program history. The 1999 team won 60 games and the 1995 team won 57 games.
Bellevue advances to play Faulkner tomorrow night at 6:35 p.m. with the winning moving on to Friday's winner-take-all Championship Game against Lewis-Clark State at 6:35 p.m.