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LSUS Baseball Headed to Avista NAIA World Series, Season-long Adversity Struck by Focus and Grit

May 25, 2021

Shreveport, LA-LSUS Baseball (44-14) punched their ticket for the Avista National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) World Series after a stellar performance at the Opening Rounds. Their first appearance since 2012, the Pilots will start the series as #9 against #8 Keiser University at 8:30 a.m. PDT on May 28 in Lewiston, Idaho.

LSUS Baseball won 31 of their last 34 games. The Pilots' (2012, 54-6) last appearance at the World Series in 2012 ended with a third-place trophy as they were eliminated by that year's champion, Tennessee Wesleyan.

Unwavering adversity has been a challenge for the 2021 Pilots from early in the regular season all the way up to the Opening Rounds. An ability to maintain focused and tough has been a key differentiator.

"The Opening Round was the toughest to deal with after having a positive COVID-19 case the day before Game 1 of the tournament," Head Coach Brad Neffendorf said. "This resulted in two extremely important players being unable to play, and it forced our group to have to test daily from there on into the remaining post-season. If you have two positive cases over back-to-back tests, you're disqualified. With our guys having to deal with that and still put the uniform on, go out, perform the way they did, and win that Opening Round, is extremely impressive and says everything about the grit and toughness of this group."

"Our guys played extremely well, facing elimination in the final three games. They stuck to the same approach we've had over the last 35 games and executed what they needed to in order to win. Offensively, they were strong and had key batting performances and executions needed to drive runners in from scoring position. Then on the pitching side of things, we were extremely efficient, especially with some of our relievers throwing in three to four of the five games."

The Pilots' bid into the Williamsburg, Kentucky bracket of the Opening Rounds came after a #2 ranking on the regular season and a championship at the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) tournament. They earned the conference event victory despite inclement weather extending a four-day tournament to six, relocation from home field, and five games in the elimination bracket after an early upset.

"We have faced challenges all year," Neffendorf said. "COVID-19 put us in a position to play 12 total games in the first 37 days of the season, which in baseball is insanely tough to bounce back from, and we were on the road for the first half of the year dealing with a ton of weather that kept us off the field during our practice days. Our guys did an incredible job of looking past this, sticking to a routine, and continuing to work. I truly believe this is why we were able to get on the run we had and are in the position we are in now."

The 2021 season started with a painful 12-11 record as the Pilots faced one of their most challenging schedules, a historic snow storm, and a team COVID-19 outbreak. Returning to the diamond after rescheduling seven conference games, the Pilots fiercely closed their regular season with a 14-game winning streak contributing to an impressive 23 wins of its final 24 contests.

"The key word is ‘focused' and that's what this group is," Neffendorf said. "They have performed the majority of the year with their backs against the wall, and it has been a key component to why they have been able to continue their success so far and for the remaining duration of the season. We won a total of eight elimination games between the conference tournament and the Opening Round, and that's something you truly don't see many good teams do, but this group did."

It's been a triumphant and resilient season to say the least being the first for an all-new coaching staff with Neffendorf at the helm and Steven Brown and Jeffrey Chapuran as assistant coaches. Neffendorf joined the LSUS program in 2020 but saw his first season cancelled early due to COVID-19.

"I'm so proud of what this staff and these student-athletes have accomplished this year," Director of Athletics Lucas Morgan said. "COVID-19 has added a layer of adversity that we had never seen before, but these guys are resilient and found a way to fight through weather and quarantine to become champions. This is an underrated group that can make some noise in the NAIA World Series."

Founded in 1967, Louisiana State University Shreveport offers a wide array of nationally accredited undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including a doctoral degree. The university's mission is to educate a diverse population of graduate and undergraduate students; engage in regional and global thought leadership through community collaboration and service; and innovate to enhance the application of knowledge and intellectual discovery through faculty and student research and creative endeavors.

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