GAME 1: No signs of Firestorm cooling off

May 25—Friday marked the first day of the 2024 Avista NAIA World Series at Harris Field. And one game in, there were already a couple of records broken.

The No. 9 seed Arizona Christian Firestorm beat the No. 8 Kansas Wesleyan Coyotes 17-10 in a battle of World Series first-timers, and broke the record for the most runs scored by a team in the opening game of the Series.

"We're going to keep riding the wave that we're on right now," Arizona Christian coach Joe McDonald said. "Our guys are doing a real good job just preparing for each inning and each pitch and each game."

The Firestorm set up a date with No. 1 Southeastern today at 3:05 p.m. with the win and are bringing a lineup that, once again, reminded everyone how dangerous they truly are.

Series gets its first (and fourth) home runs

It didn't take too long until a decent crowd of 1,170 got to see the first home run of the Series.

Sophomore outfielder Andrew Ivy hit a no-doubt homer to right field to put Arizona Christian (37-19) up 2-0 in the third. Ivy put up another RBI later in the game to give him three on the day. The Chicago product got on base all five times he was at the plate and scored each time, tying a Series record with five runs scored.

The Firestorm's offense didn't end with Ivy. Senior outfielder Marques Titialii went 2-for-5 with four RBI. Three of those runs came off a home run in the sixth.

Arizona Christian broke the opening-game runs record in the top of the eighth on a two-RBI single from junior infielder Kane Kiaunis. He finished with four hits and four RBI in six at-bats.

"I think (we have) a lot of confidence," Kiaunis said. "One-through-nine in the lineup right now is just swinging it. We're kind of peaking at the right time. Everyone's kind of figuring out and getting our timing right and we just trust each other."

The Firestorm offense had an easy game, especially during the first six innings.

Elliott shows out on the mound

McDonald described his top-two starting pitchers, Eli Elliott and Adrian Santa Cruz, as his "1A and 1B" guys. Elliott put on a 1A performance Friday with eight strikeouts, four hits allowed and three earned runs in six innings pitched. The three runs didn't come until the end of Elliott's outing. By that point, Arizona Christian had a 9-3 lead.

"On the pitching side of things, it's so much easier to pitch when your team is putting up 17 runs in a game," Elliott said. "It's nice. I was just going inside a lot because I noticed they had long swings."

Kansas Wesleyan's bats started to go to work once Elliott was pulled. The Coyotes (48-11) got two home runs from sophomore designated hitter Cruz Oxford — a three-RBI shot to dead-center field in the eighth and another three-score blast to left-center in the ninth. Oxford finished with a game-high seven RBI.

The last three innings were almost a completely different game for Kansas Wesleyan, which will look to bounce back in an elimination game against Hope International at 8:35 a.m. today.

The caliber of wins the Firestorm have under their belt dating back to the beginning of the Opening Round are impressive — especially from a program that was making just its fourth Opening Round appearance and is in the middle of its first World Series appearance.

It also sets up today's winner's bracket game to be an interesting one.

Which fire burns hotter?

Southeastern has been the No. 1 team in the country for the better part of three seasons now and is the most recent champion in this year's field, having won it all in 2022. The Fire and Arizona Christian's coaching staffs also have a relationship. Both schools collaborate to rotate hosting duties for the annual East/West Challenge — which usually marks the beginning of the season for a lot of top teams in the country.

The Firestorm have worked the whole season to get where Southeastern has been for six years straight: the World Series. Today, surging Arizona Christian and the established Fire will see which team stays hot in the winner's bracket of the World Series.

"If you were to tell me at the beginning of the year that we would be playing Southeastern in the World Series, I'd say, 'That means we're here,'" McDonald said. "We're playing the No. 1 team in the country. It's a grateful moment and we're blessed and we're going to come out, do the best we can and hopefully come out on top."


ab h r bi ab h r bi

Ivy cf 3 5 2 3 Williamson rf 3 2 1 0

Titialii lf 5 2 2 4 Foster cf 4 3 2 0

Tarver 1b 3 2 2 2 Gable ss 4 1 0 1

Kiaunis 3b 6 0 4 4 Oxford dh 5 2 2 7

Anderson rf 5 0 0 1 Favretto c 4 0 0 0

Garcia dh 4 2 1 0 Riggs pr 0 1 0 0

Eastham c 4 0 2 0 Bishop 3b 3 0 0 0

Thomas pr/rf 1 2 0 0 Romero ph/lf 0 0 0 0

DeLuca pr/ph 1 1 1 0 Beatty 1b 4 1 2 2

Petersen c/ph 1 0 0 0 Vlllbs 2b/3b 4 0 0 0

Beckworth ss 5 2 2 1 Garcia lf/2b 4 0 1 0

Edmonds 2b 5 1 1 0

Vielguth ph 1 0 0 0

Totals 44 17 17 15 Totals 35 10 8 10

Arizona Christian 003 015 440—17 17 1

Kansas Wesleyan 000 012 043—10 8 3

Arizona Christian ip h r er bb so

Elliott (W, 8-4) 6.0 4 3 3 1 8

Esqueda 1.2 3 4 0 1 2

Quinton 1.1 11 3 3 1 5

Kansas Wesleyan ip h r er bb so

Brannen (L, 11-2) 5.2 11 9 8 1 4

Wright 0.1 3 3 3 1 1

Rodriguez 0.1 0 1 1 3 1

Ramirez 1.1 2 4 0 1 2

Gwin 1.1 1 0 0 1 0

Attendance — 1,170.

Kowatsch can be contacted at (208) 848-2268, or on Twitter @Teren_Kowatsch.