William Carey headed to Title Game of NAIA Opening Round

Published: May. 17, 2023 at 12:12 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

William Carey University Sports Information Department

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - It was business as usual for William Carey University Tuesday afternoon, and business was good indeed.

The Crusaders dominated Ave Maria (Fla.) from start to finish for an 11-2 victory in the NAIA Hattiesburg Opening Round Regional at Milton Wheeler Field.

Eighth-ranked (NAIA) Carey (46-9) advanced to the championship round at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday against an opponent to be determined.

The Gyrenes (35-17) will take on Houston-Victoria at 10 a.m. Wednesday with the winner advancing to the 1:30 p.m. championship game.

If the Crusaders win Wednesday, they will advance to the NAIA World Series for the fourth time in program history, including a national title in 1969. A loss forces a winner-take-all game at 11 a.m. Thursday.

“We beat a good team (Tuesday),” said veteran Carey coach Bobby Halford. “We beat a team from a good league that plays with the No. 1 team in the country (Southeastern (Lakeland, Fla. University), and plays everybody tough. “

“So, I give them a lot of credit. It was hard to put them away, and we finally did late.”

WCU rode the effort of three seniors, A.J. Stinson, Bobby Lada and Patrick Lee, to the brink of a trip to Lewiston, Idaho, site of the World Series.

Stinson had another ironman effort on the mound for Carey, going seven innings and allowing just two runs on four hits.

Lada went 3-for-5 at the plate, with two home runs and three runs-batted-in. Lee was 2-for-4, with a single and a home run.

“I came out (Tuesday), and I knew a couple of guys on their team,” said Lada. “So, I wanted to come out and have some fun. Nothing changed.”

For Stinson (7-2), it was a typical day for the big right-hander: five walks and three wild pitches, but also nine strikeouts on 140 pitches.

For much of the afternoon, Stinson’s fastball was blazing at 90-plus mph.

“I was just focused (Tuesday),” said Stinson. “I tried to do the same thing I always do when I come to the mound. It just worked again (Tuesday). My fastball was good, but my out pitch is always my change-up. So, having a live fastball today really helped me out.”

The Crusaders took command right from the start. Carey was playing as the visitor because they had been home in their previous game, while AMU was the visitor in its game on Monday, and it didn’t take long to get the offense going.

With one out against Gyrene junior right-hander Ryan Schroeder , Lada singled into left field, stole second and reached third on a wild pitch. Junior Jake Lycette drew a walk, and then Lee drove in the first run with a single.

Junior Preston Ratliff followed with an RBI single to left for a 2-0 lead.

Lee, a five-year veteran in the Crusader program, is back in the lineup after missing several weeks with a hamstring injury.

He said he was glad to be back.

“It’s really indescribable, honestly,” said Lee. “I feel like a whole new person when I’m out there. Baseball has been my love for my whole life, so it’s always good to be on the field, especially with this group of guys.”

Lee has been in the cleanup spot since he returned to the lineup this week, with Lada in the two-hole, and that’s seemed to be a winning setup for the Crusaders.

“Lada just keeps doing what he’s been doing the last month or so,” said Halford. “When you’re in the middle of the order, they’re working on you a little bit, and you’re not getting as many quality pitches because there’s men on base.

“So, Lada’s able to jump start us, and we feel good about Pat hitting in the four-hole because he doesn’t do the running he normally would coming off the hamstring injury.”

Besides the national championship season of 1969, William Carey has played in the NAIA World Series in 1978 and in 2017, where the Crusaders finished third after getting eliminated in the semifinal round.

“We just have to focus on taking it one game at a time,” said Lada. “Once we get out there, we just play the game like we’re supposed to.”

Want more WDAM 7 news in your inbox? Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.