The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has officially announced the pairings and site selections for the 2012 NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round on Sunday.
Each of the nine locations will feature a five-team double-elimination tournament May 10 - 14. Opening Round winners will join host Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) at the 56th annual Avista-NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, May 25 - June 1.
“We are excited to be hosting again and this year’s field of 45 looks very impressive," said Lee coach Mark Brew.
In our Opening Round grouping we have some familiarity with Freed-Hardeman having played them in a DH this year, but the other three teams we will have very little information on. One thing is for sure, it should be a great week of baseball with five quality teams fighting for a spot in the World Series.”
The Flames will be joined by Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) (36-21), Missouri Baptist (36-15), Avila (Mo.) (39-14), and Bacona (Okla.) (28-23). The tournament will open with Avila facing Bacona on Thursday at noon. Missouri Baptist and Freed-Hardeman will follow at 3:30 and the Flames will challenge the winner of Avilia and Bacona in the 7 p.m. nightcap.
Twenty-nine teams earned automatic berths to the 45-team Opening Round by winner their respective conference/independent/unaffiliated group tournaments or regular-season championships. An additional 16 at-large selections - determined by the final NAIA Baseball Coaches' Top 25 Poll released Sunday - round out the field. The other eight sights hosting Opening Rounds are LSU-Shreveport, Oklahoma City, Azusa Pacific, USC-Beauford, Appalachian Athletic Conference (Kingsport), Tabor College, Embry-Riddle and the Mid-Central College Conference (Marion, Ind.).
Ten squads are playing in their fourth-straight Opening Round. Lee and Oklahoma City are a perfect 9-0 in four trips, while defending champion Concordia (Calif.) and Oklahoma Baptist are also undefeated, going 3-0 in Opening Round games a year ago.
Six qualifiers have previously won a World Series title, led by Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) with 16. The Warriors own a championship record mark of 119-37 in 30 previous appearances. Lubbock Christian (Texas), who enters the tournament with two banners, is the only other team in the field with multiple national titles.