Coyotes knock off LSU-Shreveport 2-1 to advance to World Series for first time in program history

Baseball | Box Score
SHREVEPORT, La. – The Kansas Wesleyan Coyotes are headed to Lewiston, Idaho and the AVISTA-NAIA World Series.

The Coyotes scored two early runs and got an outstanding pitching performance from Brett Maddock and KT Gearlds to defeat the LSU-Shreveport Pilots 2-1 and win the NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round Shreveport Bracket on Thursday at Pilot Field.

KWU is making its first-ever appearance in the NAIA World Series after being on the doorstep several times since the NAIA switched to the Opening Round model in 2009. This was the fourth time in six Opening Round appearances that KWU had played in the Championship Series of an Opening Round. The Coyotes previously made Opening Round Championship Series appearances in 2009, 2011, and 2023.

“I am just so happy for everyone involved,” Kansas Wesleyan coach Bill Neale said. “It starts with the players that helped us get this going 10 years ago. They’ve all had a hand in this, including the three athletic directors I have worked with, and our administration including President (Matt) Thompson and Ken Oliver and all of our administration.”

Brett Maddock was masterful on the mound for the Coyotes through seven innings, improving to 9-2 overall, scattering five LSU-Shreveport hits, allowing just one run while striking out four against three walks, tossing 109 pitches. Maddock induced 12 ground ball outs by the Pilots in the game.

“Maddock has been good for us all year, but this is the best I’ve seen him all year,” Neale said. “He went right at these guys with his fast ball and was just unbelievable today.”

KT Gearlds shut the door over the final two innings, holding the Pilots to just one hit with two strikeouts and a walk, earning his first save of the season.

“Then we have a guy like KT on the back end of our pen, who came out and gave us two innings, sitting 90-93 (mph) for us and just came out and did an incredible job for us,” Neale said. “KT was big for us in game one as well.”

Neale applauded the entire pitching staffs efforts throughout the tournament.

Zach Westbrook comes out and has been our best pitcher over the last month and did a phenomenal job against a really good hitting Talladega team and went out there and shut them down,” he said. “JB (Jarrett Brannen) got off to a bit of a rocky start in game one, but the offense picked him up and he settled in and threw well the rest of the way.”

Wesleyan plated a run in the top of the first inning as Jacob Williamson and Kendall Foster both walked to start things off. After a pair of outs, Tyler Favretto came through knocking a ball into left field to score Williamson and put the Coyotes up 1-0.

“It was big for us to jump out early,” Neale said. “Rohde (LSU-S starter) has one of the best change-ups we’ve seen all year, and for us to get out and draw a couple walks and push one across, and then another in the third was big.”

KWU loaded the bases in the second with no outs but could not push a run across.

In the third, the Coyotes tallied another. Favretto was hit by a pitch, and courtesy runner Coulson Riggs went to second on a balk and to third on Reece Bishop’s single. Zack Beatty followed with a single to left to plate Riggs and put the Coyotes up 2-0.

LSU-Shreveport got on the board in the bottom of the fourth on a double and single to make it 2-1.

The Pilots threatened again in the fifth, putting a pair of runners on, but Maddock got a ground out to end the inning.

In the sixth, again the Coyotes escaped danger from the Pilots as the inning ended on a double play.

Cruz Oxford and Favretto both singled in the top of the seventh to give the Coyotes a chance to add an insurance run but could not push one across.

In the bottom of the ninth, LSU-Shreveport led off the inning with a single and moved the runner to second on a sacrifice, but a strikeout gave the Pilots two outs in the inning, and Gearlds would induce a grounder to second for the toss to first and end it.

Favretto, Beatty and Garcia all had two hits for the Coyotes, while Favretto and Beatty drove in runs.

The 67th Annual AVISTA-NAIA World Series will be played at Harris Field at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. The 10-team, double-elimination tournament begins play on May 24 and culminates with the NAIA Championship Series on May 30 at 6:35 p.m., Pacific Time, and the “If Necessary” game on May 31, at 6:35.

“We are going to go out there, and have some fun, but ultimately it’s a business trip and we are going to try to win it,” Neale said. “As Coach Huff (pitching coach Tyler Huffstickler) said ‘we’re here, might as well win it,’ so that’s what we are going to go out there and try to do. I feel like we have as good of a chance as anyone.

“Our guys have the mindset to go out there and get the job done. We’ve done things the hard way all year, even with the rankings and all that. We believe in the process and in what’s going on here. We’re going to go out there, take it one game at a time and play the games and see what happens.”

The World Series seeding and bracket will be announced officially by the NAIA National Office.

KWU will join nine other institutions at the World Series, each who claimed their respective Opening Round championship – Hope International (Calif.), William Carey (Miss.), Tennessee Wesleyan, Arizona Christian, Southeastern (Fla.), Reinhardt (Ga.), Cumberlands (Ky.), Georgia Gwinnett and Indiana-Southeast.

“We’ll celebrate this one now, but after that it’s time to get back to work and set our sights on Lewiston and the task at hand,” Neale said.

With the victories in the Opening Round, the program pushed its all-time record dating back to 1966 over .500 for the first time since 1980. KWU is now 1085-1083 all-time starting with the revival of the program in 1966.