LEWISTON, Idaho -- Top-seeded Azusa Pacific wrapped up a whirlwind pre-tournament schedule before settling in to watch a full opening day of action at the 51st Annual NAIA Baseball World Series at Harris Field on the Lewis-Clark State College campus. The Cougars will take on eighth-seeded Lindenwood (Mo.), an 18-4 winner over ninth-seeded Houston Baptist this afternoon, in the final game of Saturday’s action, with start time scheduled for 7 p.m.
It has been a busy week of preparation for Azusa Pacific’s first return trip to the NAIA World Series in 23 years, but the Cougars have had to endure the longest wait to take the field. By the time they take the field for tonight’s contest, 2 teams will be eliminated from competition, with another 3 squads just 1 loss from elimination.
For Saturday night’s game against Lindenwood, the Mid-South Super Regional champion, Azusa Pacific will be the visiting team, wearing its corresponding road grey uniforms and sending its record-setting offense to the plate to kick off its first World Series appearance since 1984.
Lindenwood, making its first-ever NAIA World Series appearance, got off to a great start with the blowout win over Houston Baptist, the same team it defeated in 3 games, all decided by 3 runs or less, in the Super Regional. The first 5 hitters of the Lions’ lineup combined for 13 of the team’s 16 hits in the 7-inning contest ended by the 10-run rule, which is in effect for the first 6 games of the tournament.
Chris Bielski hit 2 home runs and drove in 7 runs to lead Lindenwood’s offense. The senior outfielder hit a 2-run home run in the first inning, a 2-run double in the second and a 3-run home run in the seventh inning. Bielski now has a team-high 15 home runs on the season, and he leads the Lions in RBIs with 69.
Lindenwood is expected to start lefthander Jon Story to go head-to-head with Azusa Pacific’s probable starter Scott Hodsdon.
Since their arrival in Lewiston late Tuesday night, the Cougars have seemingly shuttled off to various locations for a full pre-tournament schedule.
After settling into the team hotel, Azusa Pacific practiced Wednesday afternoon and rested for a busy Thursday that kicked off with an 8 a.m. batting practice session at Harris Field. From there, the Cougars took a team photo and shipped out to a pair of local schools to read, play and eat lunch with students in nearby Clarkston, Wash., the home of Cougar women’s basketball player Abby Johnson.
Later that afternoon, while the coaches and support staff participated in pre-tournament meetings, several Cougar players participated as instructors in a free baseball clinic for area youth. All 10 teams participated in the clinic before the championship banquet, where all 10 teams were introduced and officially welcomed to the World Series by the tournament host and the Lewiston Chamber of Commerce.
One of the banquet’s highlights came during the head coach introductions, when local sports radio personalities asked each head coach a question about their team. When asked about the Cougars’ exciting West Coast Super Regional series with tournament host and defending NAIA champion Lewis-Clark State, Azusa Pacific head coach Paul Svagdis lightened things up with a joke about Beau Mills’ long home run off Hodsdon in the Super Regional, saying, “Is Beau Mills here tonight? I just wanted to let you know that the California Highway Patrol gave us a call. They found your home run ball from the second game. It just landed on the 210 freeway yesterday.”
The next morning, the 2007 NAIA World Series got underway, with 10th-seeded Walsh (Ohio) pulling off a surprising come-from-behind 3-2 win over seventh-seeded St. Thomas (Fla.). After Lindenwood’s big win over Houston Baptist in the second game, fifth-seeded Bellevue (Neb.) posted a 12-10 win over fourth-seeded Cumberland (Tenn.) before Lewis-Clark State advanced into the winner’s bracket with an 11-7 victory over sixth-seeded Lee (Tenn.).
The full bracket for the 2007 Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series is available through this link, and full tournament information will be available through the official NAIA World Series website at http://www.naiaworldseries.com/.
The NAIA has partnered again with XOS Technologies to stream exclusive live video and audio of the 51st Annual Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series via the Internet. The NAIA and XOS will feature all tournament games through www.watchNAIA.com, a sports broadband video channel developed by XOS Technologies for the NAIA. The All-Tournament Pass is $23.95 and any single game may be purchased for $6.95.