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Hits aplenty in Series title tilt

Jun. 1—The final game of the NAIA World Series, the championship bout between sixth-seeded Tennessee Wesleyan and fourth-seeded Hope International (Calif.), provided offensive fireworks, especially in the early stages.

The Royals' offense had a little more juice on Friday at Harris Field in Lewiston, recording 17 hits in a 14-6 victory over the Bulldogs. The win capped a five-game winning streak at the Series, as the Royals bounced back from an opening loss against Reinhardt to secure the program's first-ever red banner.

"I thought they played fantastic," Hope International coach Larry Mahoney said. "They swung the bat really well. ... We've been preaching toughness since fall ball — we were going to have to play with a certain type of toughness if we wanted to win a national title. We'd have to execute and stay the course, and I think our boys really bought in, and now they're national champs. It's cool."

Tennesee Wesleyan wasn't too shabby at the plate, either.

In Friday's contest, the Bulldogs hit two home runs by the bottom of the third inning, a strong offensive showing compared to the team's total of just two home runs throughout the entire tournament leading up to the game.

Here's a breakdown of some of the monster plays dished out by the two teams at the plate:

Hope hammers homers

In the bottom of the first inning, Hope International brought home four runs, doubling Tennessee Wesleyan on the scoreboard.

World Series MVP JJ Cruz ignited the team's scoring outburst.

The Royals' first baseman crushed a three-run homer over the leftfield wall, giving his team a 3-2 lead.

"It was the same approach," Cruz said. "I know I'm only going to get one good pitch to hit, and he left a hanging slider there, and I was ready to go and got rewarded with that at-bat."

The homer was Cruz's field-leading fifth of the tournament. Alec Arnone hit a home run for the Royals, their second of the game, immediately after Cruz's long bomb. The homer gave the Royals a 4-2 edge over the Bulldogs.

The team's consecutive home runs in the championship game were the first since 2018 (Freed-Hardeman).

"So special," Mahoney said. "For us to give up those runs early and for those guys to respond the way they did was fantastic. Those guys have been the catalyst for this offense all year, and I'm just so happy for them."

Cruz reared his head again in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Alex Moreno's RBI single, combined with an error that scored another run, tied the game at 6-6.

In the next at-bat, Cruz ripped an RBI double that put Hope International back on top 7-6. The hit gave Cruz his 15th RBI of the tournament and was his ninth extra-base hit in just five games.

It was the third lead change of the contest.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Royals continued to dominate at the plate.

Ryan Lamastra chipped in a two-RBI double that bumped Hope International's lead to 11-6, and a couple of at-bats later, David Rivera sent another homer over the left-field fence to give the Royals a 13-6 cushion.

In the seventh, Hope International scored five runs on four hits.

"They worked counts to get good pitches to hit," Mahoney said. "They didn't chase a lot, and they grinded at-bats; all World Series, they've been grinding at-bats, and that's kind of been a theme for them. They were fantastic."

Bulldogs blast bombs

The Bulldogs' bats had some extra pop as they stepped up to the plate to start the championship game.

Jack Stevens notched Tennessee Wesleyan's first homer of the game in the top of the second; it was also his first long ball of the tournament.

It was a three-run jack that put the Bulldogs in front 5-4.

The following inning, Kruise Newman sent a shot over the right-field wall that bounced off the roof of the L-C Tennis Center to give the Bulldogs a 6-4 advantage.

Tennessee Wesleyan's second home run of the game was also the team's most in a single game during the tournament.

Newman's long ball was his first of the tournament.

Pixley may be contacted at (208) 848-2290, tpixley@lmtribune.com or on Twitter @TreebTalks.