GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The No. 2 ranked Bellevue University baseball team continued their impressive run this afternoon, knocking off host Davenport University, 7-2, to claim the NAIA Opening Round Grand Rapids bracket championship and qualify for the Avista-NAIA World Series next week in Lewiston, Idaho.
Bellevue scored early and never trailed in this one as junior right-hander Todd Nicks – on two days of rest – came back to make the start and fed the Panthers crumbs.
In eight-plus innings of work, Nicks held Davenport to just two runs on three hits and struck out seven. He improves to 11-1 on the season. In three post-season starts, Nicks is now 3-0 with a 0.72 ERA and has allowed just 10 hits in 25 innings of work while racking up 33 strikeouts against just 5 walks.
An inning later, BU padded their lead with back-to-back RBI-singles from Trevor Jones and Feeley to go up 3-0. Davenport responded in the top of the third with run-scoring groundouts from Corey Seymour and Zach Wilson to pull within 3-2.
From there Nicks cruised, retiring 17 of the next 18 batters he faced and allowing just three base-runners after the third inning. Two came in the ninth.
Bellevue showed their resiliency – if there was any doubt about it after battling out of the loser's bracket to force the "if necessary" game – by preventing Davenport from recording a shutdown inning in the bottom half. BU scored when Jake Browne's grounder to short was mishandled allowing a run to come in and on a squeeze play with Matt Evans sending a bunt to first to chase Colton Nash in from third.
The Bruins added a pair of runs in the sixth on a groundout by Feeley and an RBI-single off the bat of Derik Bontempo to go up 7-2.
Leland Tilley came on in the ninth with a pair of runners on base and retired the first to batter via strikeout before inducing a weak comebacker. Tilley fielded the comebacker, flipped to Joe Mancuso at first for the 27th out and the dogpile ensued.
BU out-hit Davenport 9-3 on the day. Feeley was the only player to record multiple hits in the ballgame.
Bellevue will be making their 13th appearance in the Avista-NAIA World Series (all since 1995) and head to Lewiston for the first time since 2008.
The Bruins (51-10) will be joined in Lewiston by hosts Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) and Opening Round winners, Faulkner (Ala.), Science & Arts (Okla.), Tennessee Wesleyan, Lindsey Wilson (Ky.), Auburn-Montgomery (Ala.), The Master's (Calif.), Point (Ga.), and Sterling (Kan.).