Baseball - Thu, May 17, 2018
LINCOLN, Calif. – In a winner-take-all contest for the ages, the three-seeded University of Antelope Valley Pioneers (44-12-1) outlasted the top-seeded William Jessup University Warriors (41-17), using a walk-off RBI single off the bat of senior center fielder Adam Maciel (Oxnard, CA) in the bottom of the ninth inning to pull out the win by the closest of margins, 16-15, in Thursday, May 17 NAIA Opening Round Championship action at McBean Stadium in Lincoln, Calif.
The Pioneers punched their first-ever ticket to the NAIA Baseball World Series, eliminating a William Jessup team in the process that finished the regular season ranked tenth in the nation, winning 31 more games than they did a season ago, defying expectations.
It was a true clash of the titans from start to finish, as both teams combined to strike for 38 hits and 31 runs. William Jessup wasted no time getting on the scoreboard in the top of the first inning, as the Warriors Will Law and Austen Swift led off the game with back-to-back solo home runs.
The score remained 2-0 in favor of William Jessup until the bottom half of the second, when, UAV got on the board for the first time, scoring one run in the inning on an RBI ground out by senior catcher Darron Teson (Lakewood, CA) to make it a one-run game, 2-1.
The Warriors would increase their lead to 3-1 with one run in the top of the third, but UAV would take advantage of a throwing error in the bottom half of the inning to score two runs, tying the game, 3-3 at the end of three innings.
William Jessup would regain the lead in the top of the fourth, 4-3, plating one run on an RBI single by Swift, but the fourth inning was all-UAV, as the Pioneers would score nine runs in the bottom half of the inning behind seven hits, including two home runs
Senior second baseman Michael Pereznegron (Lathrop, CA) kicked things off in the fourth with an RBI single to tie the game again, 4-4, but it was Maciel that blew things open three batters later, doubling home two Pioneers as UAV took a 6-4 lead, its first lead of the contest.
The inning was far from over however, as senior first baseman Tyler Pittmon (Lancaster, CA) scored on a wild pitch to increase the lead to 7-3, and after junior third baseman Nathaniel Broaddus (Lemoore, CA) sent a 2-1 pitch sailing over the left-field fence to score two more, senior shortstop Breyer Gayle (Yucaipa, CA) would cap UAV's offense surge with a solo shot over the left-field wall, and after four innings the Pioneers led, 12-4.
Neither offense would score in the fifth inning; the only inning of the game in which at least one team did not score, but the Warriors would rally in a big way in the top of the sixth, plating five runs to cut the UAV advantage to three runs, 12-9.
UAV would waste no time responding to William Jessup's offense, adding two more runs of its own in the bottom of the inning, the first coming on a line-drive solo shot that left the ball park quickly off the bat of senior right fielder Easton Withers (Taylorsville, UT) to lead things off, and the second run came later in the inning when Pereznegron singled home pinch runner Sam Robillos (Milpitas, CA) to give UAV a five-run lead after six innings, 14-9.
The Warriors and Pioneers would each add one run in the seventh inning, and heading into the eighth inning of play, the Pioneers held a comfortable five-run advantage, 15-10. But the comfort of the five-run cushion soon wore off in the top of the eighth, as William Jessup cut the lead down to just four runs, plating one on a bases-loaded walk issued by senior reliever Justin Stark (Santa Clarita, CA).
Stark would battle back to strikeout the next batter, but with two outs and the bases loaded down four runs, William Jessup's head coach decided to pinch hit with a chance to tie the game with one swing of the bat. With two away and a 1-2 count on pinch hitter Connor Braun, William Jessup's gamble would pay off, as Braun would connect with the pitch, lifting the ball high over the left field fence, a grand slam to tie the game, 15-15.
After a scoreless one-two-three inning for UAV in the bottom of the eighth, senior right-hander Austin Crank (Barstow, CA) was called upon to pitch the ninth for the Pioneers. After allowing the first two batters to reach base, Crank forced a pop out followed by back-to-back fly outs to get out of a jam as the two teams entered the bottom of the ninth inning tied, 15-15.
With a berth to the World Series on the line, Pereznegron led things off for UAV in the ninth with a single through the hole at short and would advance to second later in the inning with one on a wild pitch. The Warriors walked Pittmon to pitch instead to Maciel, and with one out and with an 0-2 count on him, Maciel smacked a ball deep down the right-field line that was unplayable for the fielder, allowing Pereznegron to round third base and head toward home plate with his hands lifted high in the air, scoring the game-winning run in walk-off fashion as he along with him teammates met in the middle of the field to celebrate the exhausting victory, 16-15.
It was complete pandemonium on the field in the aftermath of what should go down in the NAIA Opening Round annals as one of the greatest NAIA baseball games to ever be played. Some players were in tears, others could not wipe the genuine look of astonishment from their faces, and some players appeared to be in blissful shock as the enormity of the win began to sink in.
But one thing was for certain, the University of Antelope Valley Pioneers, in just the program's fifth year of existence, were headed to the NAIA World Series for the very first time, and nothing else in the city of Lincoln, the greater-Sacramento area, the state of California, or the entire country mattered, if not for just a moment.
UP NEXT: Coached by Jacob Garsez, the Pioneers will travel to Lewiston, Idaho, as one of ten teams remaining across the nation, for a chance to be named NAIA World Series champions. We will continue to update you on the World Series seeding and schedule, but please click here to visit the NAIA's official 2018 NAIA Baseball World Series information page online.