T-Birds head back to Idaho for NAIA World Series Opening Round – University of
VANCOUVER – For the first time since the spring of 2019, the UBC Thunderbirds have advanced to the NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round, presented by Avista, which gets underway Monday, May 16.
Having just returned from Lewis-Clark State and a runner up finish at the Cascade Collegiate Conference Championship, the T-Birds are headed right back to Lewiston, Idaho for the five-team regional playoff series which sees UBC open up play as the number four seed, set to face the fifth seeded University of Saint Katherine (Calif.) Firebirds on Monday morning.
“It’s hard to know what players think, but when I look around at all the good teams that aren’t playing this week I feel very grateful to have the season we’ve had and have this opportunity,” said UBC Head Coach Chris Pritchett who has guided his team to the Opening Round for the third consecutive season. “I just love this group to death and to have them get this opportunity, it’s really special because of the last two years so I’m grateful to know we’re getting a chance to realize a dream of trying to make the World Series. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves, but the opportunity is certainly cherished.”
Missing out on two years of play due to the ongoing effects of the pandemic, this season has seen a young, relatively inexperienced Thunderbirds team grow markedly over the course of the past several months. A case in point is last week’s CCC
Championship where the T-Birds found themselves in a big hole, late in an elimination game only to fight their way back to live another day. And now they find themselves playing at the most exciting time of the year.
“Sometimes you try to preach things and they don’t get any tangible proof, but I think when you get down 8-0 in an elimination game in the rain and you come back and win, then you understand what it means to play each out and to do things the right way and to have fun,” said Pritchett. “No one panicked, they continued to smile, they continued to get after it. So, to get some return on your investment was a real positive lesson for our guys and I think they’ll take that into this weekend for sure.”
UBC’s first opponent at the double elimination tournament is largely an unknown factor, at least for the T-Birds. Monday’s matchup will mark the first time the two teams have ever met. The Firebirds earned their berth at the Opening Round following a similar path as UBC, finishing as runners up in their Cal Pac Conference tournament last week.
The road to Lewiston begins now! Good luck to all teams in the Opening Rounds! pic.twitter.com/wU6tdy2JB2
— NAIA World Series (@NAIAWorldSeries) May 12, 2022
While the ‘Birds’ opponent is unfamiliar, they have the benefit of playing in very familiar confines, having just returned from Lewis-Clark State’s field a few days ago.
“The fact we just got done playing four games on that field gives us confidence we know what to expect from the ball park, so to speak. There will be a level of familiarity which is great. I think most of us assumed we would probably go to a different regional (Opening Round tournament) so then when that didn’t happen we went ‘ok we’ve been there and done that’, so that was a positive for sure.”
The Lewiston Opening Round tournament runs through Thursday, May 19. The winner of UBC’s game against the Firebirds will go on to face the number one seed and host Warriors at 6 p.m. PT while the loser will face either Vanguard University (Calif.) or Doane University (Neb.) Tuesday morning at 11:00.
Each game is available pay-per-view HERE.