|Avila baseball team makes history by qualifying for NAIA national tournament|
|Kansas City, MO||
May 10, 2010
The Avila University baseball team made history over the weekend by winning the Heart of America Athletic Conference post-season tournament and qualifying for the NAIA national tournament.
It marks the first time in the program’s history that the Eagles have qualified for the national tournament.
What’s perhaps most remarkable, however, is how the Eagles won.
Their prospects weren’t looking good after falling in lopsided fashion in the opening game to Missouri Valley, 15-4, at Phil Welch Stadium in St. Joseph. That meant the Eagles would have to fight their way back out of the losers bracket to win. And fight they did! Dramatic victories over William Jewell (3-2) and Evangel (14-12 after a dramatic three-run home run by Tim Matson late in the game) advanced the Eagles to the final against Lindenwood. Because Lindenwood reached the final without a loss, it meant Avila would have to defeat the Lions twice, in back-to-back games, to win the championship.
In the first game, the Eagles scored five runs in the first two innings and never looked back in a 5-3 victory. The Eagles’ pitching staff held the Lions to just five hits. In the second game, Avila took early leads of 5-0 after three innings and 7-2 after five. Lindenwood roared back with a run in the seventh and four in the eighth, tying the score at 7-7. However, the Eagles loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth after a single and two hit batters and then scored what would be the winning run on a passed ball.
The conference tournament title was, against all odds, theirs.
“The guys really showed a lot of intestinal fortitude, especially having to go through William Jewell and then Lindenwood twice,” said Avila baseball coach Ryan Howard. “I still can’t believe how it happened. But they’ve been cardiac kids like that before.”
Now, Avila, 37-11, will wait until 5 p.m. Friday to find out where and who the Eagles will play in the first round of the NAIA tournament. They’ll have to win three games to advance to the NAIA World Series May 28-June 4 in Lewiston, Idaho.
“I think we’ll go in as a second or third seed,” Howard said.
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