May 16, 2013
The Avila University baseball team made school history, qualifying for the 2013 NAIA Baseball National Championship.
It marked the first time an Avila baseball team qualified for back-to-back national tournaments, and it’s the third time in the last four seasons the Eagles have advanced to the tournament. The Eagles, 27-20, advanced to the national tournament by finishing in the top two at the weather-plagued Heart of America Athletic Conference tournament last weekend in St. Joseph.
“Obviously, we’re excited about going,” said second-year head coach Daryl Cronk. “I don’t remember there ever being a spring like this. I mean, snow on May 3. It was crazy. But, we’ve won nine of our last 10, so we’re playing well when it counts.”
Avila’s season was nearly as crazy as the spring weather which wreaked havoc the entire season, making it difficult for the Eagles – or, any team – to ever get on a roll. The Eagles won seven of their first eight games, before injuries and a lack of timely hitting caused them to slump in the middle. They finished 15-11 and in third in the HAAC Western Division in the regular season.
The bats came alive and the pitching remained solid down the stretch of the season, and the Eagles showed that by winning three of five games they played in their opening round regional May 9-11 in Cleveland, Tenn. The Eagles defeated Grand View, Ia. twice and knocked off Madonna, Mich., but couldn’t overcome a powerful Lee, Tenn. team that was ranked No. 3 in the nation. They dropped two games to Lee, knocking the Eagles out of the tournament.
Avila’s roster features seven players who made the all-HAAC team. First baseman Cameron Luitwieler was selected to the first team, shortstop Brian Sagun, second baseman Tanner McCall and pitchers Aaron Baker and Steven Johnson were second-team picks, and relief pitcher Brian McNulty and third baseman Jordan Byrd received honorable mention. Sagun and Baker also received Gold Glove awards for their fielding.
“We earned our way in,” Cronk said of the national tournament. “We were happy to be there.”
About Avila University
Avila University is a private, co-educational, values-based liberal arts institution founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, offering undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree programs. Avila University is located at 119th and Wornall Rd in southwest suburban Kansas City, Mo.