KINGSPORT, Tenn. - Top-seeded Keiser (Fla.) used a five-run eighth inning to propel itself to a 9-6 victory over No. 3 seed IU Southeast and the 2017 NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round - Kingsport Bracket title on Thursday.
The Seahawks (42-19 overall) punched their ticket to the AVISTA-NAIA World Series with the win.
The tournament was held at Hunter Wright Stadium in Kingport, Tenn. The Kingsport Convention and Visitors Bureau served as the tournament host.
Keiser jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, but IU Southeast scored a run in second and fourth innings to even the ledger at 2-all. In the fifth, right fielder Reyni Olivero belted a solo home run to put Keiser up 3-2. The home run was the third and final one of the nine-game tournament.
From that point on, the Seahawks never trailed as they exploded for five runs in the top of the eighth for an 8-2 advantage. Pinch-hitter Carlos Lopez delivered the big blow of the rally with a two-run single, which up the margin to 7-2. Miguel Casanueva scored the final run of the inning on a stolen base while Olivero got caught in pickle between first and second base.
IU Southeast, though, continued to show the same resilency its shone all tournament as it scored twice in the bottom of the eighth. Clay Benefield and Julian Flanary each picked up RBIs in pulling the Grenadiers within 8-4.
Keiser added an insurance run in the top of the ninth for a 9-4 edge, but IU Southeast made things interesting once more in the bottom of the frame. Tanner Leenknecht came through with a two-run single, cutting the margin to 9-6. IU Southeast then had two on with one out, but Keiser reliever Jeremy Graf induced a groundout and flyout from the next two batters in securing the three-run victory and the NAIA World Series berth for the Seahawks.
Brad Myott drove in two runs for Keiser, while Keivan Berges went 3-for-5 with a RBI. Berges also picked up the win, going seven innings and allowing two earned runs on eight hits and two walks with six strikeouts. Graf picked up his fourth save of the season.
For IU Southeast (48-15 overall), Leenknecht went 3-for-5 with two driven in, while Nicolas Lugo was 3-for-5 with two runs scored. Cody Maloon also finished 3-for-5 and had a RBI.
The NAIA World Series begins May 26 in Lewistown, Idaho.