LEWISTON, Idaho - After the first out in the bottom of the ninth inning, Faulkner right fielder David Bishop started tearing up. After the second, he literally started crying. "I was hoping they weren't going to hit the ball to me after that," the senior said, "because I don't think I'd have been able to see it."
Bishop was just one of many wearing Faulkner blue fighting back emotion here Thursday night, as Patrick McCarthy's Eagles finished off a perfect week with an 11-4 victory over Lewis-Clark State to capture the program's first-ever NAIA World Series championship at Harris Field.
"There are so many people who have put hours and hours of work into the success of this team," a red-eyed McCarthy said after his team's fifth win in six days. "This is for the entire Faulkner Family. God has blessed this team and it all played out tonight. A newspaper guy asked me right after the game what I felt was the key point in the game. I told him the only thing I could remember about the game was the last out. I'll remember that for the rest of my life."
Playing in front of a standing-room-only crowd of nearly 5,000 Lewis-Clark State fans, the Eagles scored six times in the second inning, with Michael Cruz driving in two with a base hit, and Bishop, Zak Colby and Dauris Holguin all adding RBIs in the pivotal stretch. The Warriors never got closer than four runs the rest of the way, as Faulkner right hander Johnny Shuttlesworth, who captured a pair of victories in the tournament to grab Most Valuable Player honors, continually snuffed out Lewis-Clark State threats.
Shuttlesworth, who allowed a season-high 14 hits in 7 1-3 innings, threw 122 pitches on just four days rest to finish his senior season with a nation-best 16-1 record. The victory total is the most-ever by a Faulkner pitcher.
"This is certainly the pinnacle of my athletic career," the Tuscaloosa, Ala., native said. "The feeling is indescribable. Winning a national championship seems almost impossible, but this group of guys did it. We're all very close, and there in the final inning we were all having a hard time believing that it was actually happening."
Lewis-Clark State, which has won 16 NAIA baseball national championships, scored twice in the second inning and appeared poised to cut further into the Eagles' lead an inning later, but Faulkner center fielder Antonio Kendrick fielded what appeared to be a run-scoring hit off the bat of Kyle Knigge and threw a strike to Colby at the plate to gun down Brady Steiger for the third out.
"We don't win this tournament without Antonio Kendrick," Bishop said. "He comes out here the first day of the tournament and made play after play to help us win. His performance here was just phenomenal. He was clutch all week."
Kendrick's throw seemed to deflate the Warriors and spark the Eagles, who scored the game's next five runs to build the margin to 11-2 before Lewis-Clark added its final two runs in the bottom of the eighth. Bishop was the big offensive gun in the championship game, collecting three hits including his third home run of the tournament. Colby, Kendrick, Cruz, Luis Sanchez and Dauris Holguin each added two hits for Faulkner, which closed its championship season with a program-best 56-11 record. LaBradford Griffis, who earned two saves in the tournament, didn't allow a hit over the final 1 2-3 innings.
Shuttlesworth was joined on the all-tournament team by pitcher Julian Esquibel, first baseman Cayleb Coker, Cruz and Bishop. Kendrick was selected by the media as the World Series' Hustle Award winner.
"This is a dream come true for me, to be able to go out there and give it your all and win the last college baseball game you'll ever play in," Kendrick said. "Faulkner University has meant so much to me, from the coaches and players on this team, to the faculty and staff who have been such an encouragement. Faulkner will always be in my blood."
Courtesy: Doug Amos