Emmett’s Taylor Nicholson never went to the state tournament in high school and says this makes up for that fact.
Meridian’s Todd Griffiths adds this is more exciting then when he played for Lower Columbia Community College at the JUCO World Series.
They’re both looking forward to the NAIA World Series, which begins in Lewiston on Friday for the College of Idaho baseball team. The 10th-seeded Yotes open against No. 7 seed Point Park (Pa.) (51-9) at 10 a.m. (MT).
Both Griffiths and Nicholson played huge roles in the Coyotes earning their fifth World Series berth, and first since 2002, along with fellow C of I pitchers Chad Yeggy, Joshua Orr, Zachary Fabricius and Michael Garza.
The old adage in baseball says “good pitching beats good hitting.” The Coyotes (41-19) have lived by that premise in the postseason.
During the year, the C of I hurlers combined for a respectable 3.86 ERA, putting them around the top 30 in the nation, and allowed 4.5 runs per game, putting them in the top 40 in the NAIA.
Those numbers have dropped significantly — by a run each — in the playoffs, despite the fact the competition only gets tougher and tougher as the Coyotes continue down the postseason road.
“We’re just throwing strikes,” said Nicholson, who is 2-1 with a 1.97 ERA and 17 strikeouts in the playoffs. “We’re really not worrying about stats and stuff, just go out there and throw strikes and keep us in the game.”
“We’ve got guys stepping up,” adds Yeggy, a senior along with Orr and Griffiths. “We’re locating the fastball, and in big situations leaving runners on base, not giving up extra runs in innings where it could be one run, it could be five. We come out with one.”
But, there’s got to be something to it, right?
After all, the Coyotes pitchers are getting better in pressure situations, and against better competition as the C of I beat No. 18 Shorter (Ga.) and No. 4 Azusa Pacific.
The Hawks hit .315 with 33 home runs and 7.14 runs per game, while the Cougars hit .323 with 82 home runs (second most in the NAIA) and plated 7.71 runs per game this season.
Offensively, in comparison, the Yotes hit .313 with 23 homers and 7.13 runs per game.
So, something helped the Coyotes hold down those potent offenses, and other team’s as well.
“I think, more so once you get to that tournament style, it gets a little more intense, people get just that much more focused, I think,” said Griffiths, the C of I’s starting second baseman who has been dominant on the hill as well, racking up a 2-0 record with two saves in 27 2-3 innings while striking out 17 with a 1.30 ERA.
“I think we’ve been spotting up a lot better toward the end of the season, especially with our fastballs, locating inside and outside,” Griffiths added. “I don’t think we located very well on the inside part of the plate during the season and that’s what kinda got us in trouble a lot.”
Yeggy, who is 1-1 in the postseason with seven Ks and leads the C of I staff with 102 innings pitched this year, agrees, in part.
“I feel like we’ve been throwing pretty constant all year,” he said, adding that the Coyotes pitchers did have to battle through a few games during the season.
No doubt, the Coyotes will face some tough battles at the World Series, where all 10 teams have .300-plus batting averages and all 10 teams average more than six runs a game.
“We’re kinda the underdogs right now but we’ve proved ourselves,” Nicholson said, referring to their national opening-round tournament victory at Azusa Pacific.
“I don’t think a lot of the teams expected a whole lot out of us and we kinda showed up and impressed people,” Griffiths said.
The Coyotes now look to continue to impress people, powered by their pitching.