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Bushnell downs Lewis-Clark State for Cascade Conference baseball title

May 7—On Monday at Harris Field in Lewiston, seven was the magic number.

It was the inning the Bushnell Beacons took the lead over Lewis-Clark State en route to its first Cascade Conference baseball championship in program history. It was the number of runs Bushnell put up in the inning to take an 8-2 lead over the Warriors, which ended up being the final score. And it was the number of runs LCSC put up in a 7-1 win earlier in the day against British Columbia to advance to the championship game.

That angel number, 777, provided some good luck for the Beacons and they clinched their first-ever berth to the NAIA Opening Round, presented by Avista, in the program's third year of existence.

"This is a great moment for our team," Bushnell coach Tommy Richards said. "Everyone's worked so hard. I really think the journey is the reward. We're just so excited to keep the season going for however long we can make it go. I have so much respect for our players and the work they put into this thing. This is a great moment for sure but the journey's been awesome."

For the Warriors, Monday's game turned the page to the Opening Round, which starts Monday for the team at Harris Field.

"It's not always the most talented team or the best team, it's the team that plays the best," LCSC coach Jake Taylor said. "And Bushnell definitely played the best out of anybody here. So congratulations to them."

Before the Cascade Conference championship took residence with the squad from Eugene, Ore., there was a game to be played. And for the first few innings, the game bore resemblance to a pipe ready to burst.

Jordan Wilson hits the go-ahead

The championship game started in an unusual way. LCSC, which usually bats in the bottom of the inning at Harris Field due to being the home team, hit in the top of the frame in both games on Monday, playing as the visitors in both games. There was a delay before the start of the bottom half of the first. The delay was due to the umpires thinking Warriors starter Hiroyuki Yamada was bringing his back foot off the rubber with his pitching motion — which would be a balk.

At first, these abnormalities didn't seem to bother LCSC (37-11).

Senior designated hitter Nick Seamons hit an RBI double and junior shortstop Dominic Signorelli brought a run in with a sacrifice grounder for the Warriors to take a 2-0 lead early.

Yamada found himself in a couple of jams in his 3 2/3 innings of work, but got out of them. His highlight wasn't a pitch, but a grounder he fielded in front of the mound with the bases loaded for a rare 1-2-3 double play that got LCSC out of the third inning.

Bushnell (29-24) scored once in the third, which brought its deficit down to 2-1 heading into the fourth. That was when the pipe started to fill.

From the fourth through the sixth inning, neither team scored and left a combined 10 runners on base.

Then, in the bottom of the seventh, the pipe burst.

With the bases loaded and no outs, Beacons junior right fielder Jordan Wilson hit a go-ahead grand slam, his 14th homer of the season, to put Bushnell up 5-2. The Beacons tacked on three more runs in the seventh, courtesy of a wild pitch and a two-RBI double from junior first baseman Cade Crist.

By the end of the seventh, Bushnell had turned a 2-1 deficit into an 8-2 advantage. Two innings later, it punched its ticket to the national tournament.

"I think all game we had our opportunities (to score)," Wilson said. "We were close in multiple innings and I think we finally opened the floodgates and it just turned into one big inning. ... Coming into a hostile environment, I think we play better. I think we play up to the occasion. Tommy says just play in the moment but I think when we have these big games we just play better."

Senior center fielder Carter Booth and junior catcher Jakob Marquez had more than half of the Warriors' 10 hits with three apiece — all singles.

Thunderbirds go silent

Before the championship game Monday, LCSC had to get through the British Columbia Thunderbirds (31-19) in an elimination game.

The game was supposed to conclude on Sunday, but was suspended in the top of the third due to rain.

Booth hit a home run before the game was postponed to put the Warriors up 1-0 in the top of the third. When play resumed, Seamons was on second base and senior first baseman Jake Gish was at-bat with one out in the inning.

LCSC tacked on two more runs once play resumed. Gish hit a sacrifice fly to score Seamons and junior right fielder Charlie Updegrave hit an RBI double.

In the fourth, sophomore catcher Bulla Ephan hit a solo home run and Gish had another RBI with a single to put the Warriors up 5-0 through four.

LCSC outscored British Columbia 2-1 the rest of the way for the 7-1 final.

Warriors pitcher Jace Hanson earned the win, improving his record to 5-2 on the year. Cam Smith relieved Hanson in the sixth and pitched the final 3 1/3 innings and earned his sixth save of the year.

Opening Round on the horizon

For both Bushnell and LCSC, the season continues. The Warriors return to Harris Field on Monday in hopes to earn their ticket to their 26th-consecutive World Series. LCSC will find out its opponents, and the Beacons will find out who and where they will play, in the Opening Round selection show at 2 p.m. PST on Thursday on the NAIA's YouTube channel.

"Our conference is a gauntlet, I think, in the first place," Richards said. "And I think just knowing that, we'll be well-prepared to go anywhere we're called. And the boys will show up, we'll be excited and we'll give it our best shot."

The Warriors were in a similar position last year as they are this season: coming off a Cascade Conference tournament loss and with the Opening Round looming.

LCSC ended up making the Avista NAIA World Series championship that year.

Coming into the conference tournament this year, it was on a 16-game winning streak.

It will hope to regain that form starting in the Opening Round.

"There's no magic recipe," Taylor said. "We just need to rest up a little bit and get our bodies healthy and get our minds right and get back to work. We'll have a couple of good practices. It's a busy week for a lot of our guys with graduation and family in town and everything. It'll be easy for them to be distracted — so we're just going to have to stay sharp and make sure we're ready to go next week."

LEWIS-CLARK STATE BRITISH COLUMBIA

ab r h bi ab r h bi

Booth cf 4 2 1 1 Zarowny cf 4 0 2 1

Seamons dh 4 1 1 0 Marsh 2b 5 0 1 0

Signorelli ss 4 0 0 0 Lenihan 1b 4 0 2 0

Gish 1b 3 1 2 2 Middlemiss rf 4 0 0 0

Cabrera lf 4 1 1 1 Young dh 4 0 1 0

Updegrave rf 5 0 1 1 Yip lf 2 0 0 0

De Sa 3b 3 0 0 0 Anderson ph 1 0 0 0

Ephan c 3 1 1 1 Lamothe 3b 3 0 0 0

George pr 0 1 0 0 Berg c 3 0 1 0

Hofstetter 2b 4 0 0 0 Boomer pr 0 1 0 0

Draayers ss 4 0 0 0

Totals 34 7 7 6 Totals 34 1 7 1

Lewis-Clark State 003 200 011—7 7 0

British Columbia 000 010 000—1 7 2

Lewis-Clark State ip h r er bb so

Stedman 2.0 1 0 0 1 0

Hanson (W, 5-2) 3.2 3 1 1 4 3

Smith (S, 6) 3.1 3 0 0 0 3

British Columbia ip h r er bb so

Domingo (L, 2-3) 2.1 2 2 2 3 4

Brock 1.2 3 3 3 2 0

R. Heppner 3.0 0 0 0 0 0

Hoegler 2.0 2 2 0 1 3

------

LEWIS-CLARK STATE BUSHNELL

ab r h bi ab r h bi

Booth c f 3 1 3 0 Furman cf 4 1 1 1

Seamons dh 5 1 1 1 Casperson c 3 0 2 0

Signorelli ss 5 0 1 1 Reed c 1 0 0 0

Gish 1b 3 0 1 0 Wilson rf 5 1 2 4

Cabrera lf 4 0 0 0 Richter pr 0 1 0 0

Updegrave rf 4 0 0 0 Jennings dh 5 1 1 0

De Sa 3b 4 0 0 0 Hart lf 5 1 2 0

Marquez c 4 0 3 0 Nye 3b 3 1 1 0

George pr 0 0 0 0 Crist 1b 3 0 1 2

Hofstetter 2b 4 0 1 0 Stacy 2b 1 1 0 0

Hussey ph 0 0 0 0

Carganilla ss 3 1 1 0

Totals 36 2 10 2 Totals 33 8 11 7

Lewis-Clark State 200 000 000—2 10 0

Bushnell 001 000 70x—8 11 0

Lewis-Clark State ip h r er bb so

Yamada 3.2 3 1 1 1 2

Green 1.2 2 0 0 1 0

Ediger (L, 1-2) 0.2 1 3 3 1 1

Webb 0.0 4 4 4 1 0

Williamson 2.0 1 0 0 1 3

Bushnell ip h r er bb so

Chapman 4.0 6 2 2 2 0

Stavros 1.2 2 0 0 0 1

Hammond (W, 7-3) 3.1 2 0 0 1 2

Kowatsch can be contacted at 208-848-2268, tkowatsch@lmtribune.com or on Twitter @Teren_Kowatsch.