Lee clinches 6th straight trip to NAIA World Series
CLEVELAND, Tenn. (WRCB/Lee) -- It wasn't easy, but Lee University is heading back to the NAIA World Series.
The Flames punched their sixth straight ticket to Lewiston, Idaho, by capping a wild run through the loser's bracket with an 8-5 victory over Missouri Baptist in the championship round of the NAIA Opening Round Tournament at Olympic Field on Monday.
Lee (54-9-1) forced Monday's deciding "if-necessary" game after using a three-run, ninth-inning rally to beat the Spartans 4-3 on Saturday night.
In Monday's do-or-die tournament finale, Roberto Reyes delivered a three-run double in a five-run fourth inning and four Flames' pitchers worked on short rest to secure what head coach Mark Brew called the "sweetest" of his six World Series-clinching wins.
"The resiliency has been built up all year. Saturday's come-back was our fifth walk-off win of the year," Brew said. "They believe in themselves. They believe in everyone in the lineup and everyone on the mound.
"This one is just more special because of how we had to do it through the loser's bracket and what happened Saturday night, and just what a performance by these guys today. What a performance."
Lee never trailed in a game that flew by in just 2 hours and 18 minutes.
A Corey Davis sacrifice fly and Trevor Burgess RBI-single gave the Flames a quick 2-0 lead in the first, but Missouri Baptist scored one run in each the second and third innings off starter Kris Hall to pull even through three.
The Flames blew it open in the fourth, sending nine men to the plate despite recording just two hits.
A walk and an Edmanuel Rivera double jump-started the rally before Cameron Brewster's run-scoring single plated the frame's first run. Jorge Saez was hit by a pitch to load the bases, which were subsequently cleared by Reyes' double down the right-field line.
"That hit was huge," said Brew. "It came with two outs and came at a time when it looked like they were going to get out of a big jam."
Reyes, who leads the nation with 82 RBI, later scored on a throwing error for a 7-2 lead through four innings.
Blake Barber added a solo homer in the sixth to push the advantage to 8-2 before the Spartans chipped away.
Kyle Hardy's two-run double pulled Missouri Baptist to within four before Kyle Turner's run-scoring double later made it 8-5 in the seventh, but the Spartans would get no closer.
Hall started on three days rest and hurled the first three innings. Freshman Kyle Briner came on for the next three and earned the win, allowing four hits and two earned runs while fanning three.
Joe Fabre gave the Flames two strong innings before Andy Hillis came in to seal it in the ninth for his seventh save of the season.
"Andy was throwing B-B's," Brew said of Hillis, who hit 94 miles-per-hour on the radar gun on the game's final pitch. "I think he was a little hungry to pitch."
Lee will be joined in Lewiston by Tennessee Wesleyan, Rogers State (Okla.), LSU-Shreveport, Embry-Riddle (Fla.), Point Park (Pa.), Oklahoma City, College of Idaho, South Carolina-Beauford, and host Lewis-Clark State (Idaho.).
The double-elimination tournament opens on May 25th.