IDAHO — The Northwest Nazarene baseball team is looking to continue its record-breaking season at the Division II National Championship Tournament.
“I'm kind of at a loss of words but at the same time this is exactly where we wanted to be,” John Gonzalez, NNU player said.
A year of firsts for this team and the program.
“To be the first GNAC team to ever go to the world series is just so surreal and it is setting in," Blake McFadden, NNU player said. "We are realizing we belong here and the hard work we put in is finally paying off.”
The team touchdown in North Carolina on Thursday, and practiced Friday ahead of the matchup.
“Everybody is very excited," Joe Schaefer, NNU head baseball coach said. "I think we are all still riding cloud nine in the fact that we are here, but the willingness and readiness to compete is starting to show up.”
Although the Nighthawks will face the number one seed, Central Missouri, in the first round, the team is confident in their style of play.
"For us, we have kind of been underdogs all season although we haven't really played like it," McFadden said. "We are just playing with a chip on our shoulder. We have done that all season and when we came out as the eight seed it shocked some, but for us, we are so used to it so we are prepared.”
Coach Schaefer said that his message to the team is to play like that have all season and not compare themselves to the other teams there.
"We are at the point in the season where numbers are kind of meaningless. Stats don’t mean a whole lot, seeding doesn’t mean a whole lot," Schaefer said. "You’re the final eight in the country and everyone has earned their way here.”
For Gonzalez, who broke NNU's single-season home run record, he couldn't think of a better way to end his college career than in North Caroline competing for a National Championship.
“It’s one I’ll never forget, and it is something I’ll be able to take with me for the rest of my life," Gonzalez said. "To be here at this moment is not only icing on the cake, but a cherry on top. "It’s a good reflection on everyone involved because we shot for the moon and now we are there and we have an opportunity to bring it all home.”
NNU baseball has proven throughout the season, and postseason so far, after winning three elimination games in a row, that their squad thrives under pressure.
“At the end of the day, we still get to play with the same white ball, same brown bat, and do it on the same type of diamond just a little bit cleaner haha," Gonzalez said. "But yeah nothing changes, nothing but hardnose baseball.”
The Nighthawks will face Central Missouri Sat., June 5 at 4 p.m. MT. To catch it live, click here.