It has been 16 years since Indiana Tech's baseball team reached the NAIA World Series. The Warriors' latest chance to end that drought begins Monday in Williamsburg, Kentucky.
Indiana Tech learned Thursday during the NAIA National Championship Selection Show that it will be the second seed in the Williamsburg bracket and will take on No. 3 seed Lyon College from Arkansas. The top seed in the five-team bracket is host University of the Cumberlands.
This is the 20th time the No. 23 Warriors (38-14-1) have reached the NAIA postseason. They enter the tournament with plenty of momentum, having won 12 of their last 13 games – with one tie – and coming off their first WHAC Tournament title since 2013.
“We're on a little bit of a win streak, we're feeling good, we're feeling comfortable,” said Indiana Tech catcher Glen McClain, the WHAC Player of the Year. “But we still have that chip on our shoulder. Even though we're riding that momentum, we still have that chip on our shoulder. We still have some stuff we want to prove.”
The Warriors gathered in Snyder Academic Center to watch the selection show together. Three times a different team called the Warriors popped up on the screen and three times anticipatory shouts turned into mildly disappointed groans. The Warriors knew they had an automatic bid into the tournament, but the wait to learn their opponent was interminable.
The Williamsburg bracket was the last to be revealed and the room broke into excited cheers as Tech's name finally appeared on the board.
The Warriors' first opponent in the double-elimination Opening Round, the Lyon Scots (38-20), will be personal for coach Kip McWilliams. He and Scots coach Tony Roepcke are good friends and he believes Roepcke has done a solid job building the Lyon program.
“They're very well-coached,” McWilliams said. “They're a very good hitting team, they're batting over .300 as a team. They like to steal a lot of bases, almost a hundred stolen bases this year. They play in a very tough conference. ... They're a quality opponent for sure.”
This is the fourth straight year Tech has played in the Opening Round, which is the name for the nine brackets that make up the 45-team field.
The nine winners will play in the World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, beginning May 24.
The Warriors have been knocked out in the Opening Round three consecutive years, making this the last chance for the team's seniors to reach the biggest stage in NAIA baseball. Some of those seniors will take part in the school's graduation ceremony Saturday before playing Monday.
“I'm just gonna enjoy it with my brothers because this could be the last time I ever step on a baseball field,” said senior McClain. “Hopefully not, fingers crossed, but I'll just live it up, enjoy the weather, enjoy the experience and hopefully we'll come out on top.”
McClain, a Fremont graduate who is hitting .434 with a team-best 16 home runs and 52 RBI, took a foul ball off the knee in the WHAC Tournament championship series and exited that game. He returned as the designated hitter in Game 2 of the series and said he'll be ready to play Monday.
“I'll be there,” he said.
Note: Huntington University (26-14) also earned a spot in the NAIA National Tournament, as a No. 4 seed in the Macon, Georgia, bracket. They'll face No. 5 seed British Columbia (29-20) in their first game Monday. The winner will move on to face top seed Southeastern University of Florida.
At a glance
What: NAIA Baseball Opening Round
Who: No. 2 Indiana Tech vs. No. 3 Lyon College (Ark.)
When: 3 p.m. Monday
Where: Doyle Buhl Stadium, Williamsburg, Ky.
Records: Indiana Tech (38-14-1), Lyon (38-20)