GEORGETOWN — Georgetown College has a long history of NAIA glory and postseason success when it comes to basketball and football, but not so much in baseball, or at least not until now.
For just the second time in school history, Georgetown is in the NAIA World Series.
"We're just so very proud to represent Georgetown College," said Micah Baumfeld, the Tigers' 33-year-old head coach. "That's a big deal to us."
Baumfeld was sitting inside the third-base dugout Monday afternoon after the team's final practice in preparation for the school's first World Series appearance since 1988.
The Tigers open play on Friday at 3 p.m. (EDT) in Lewiston, Idaho, against defending national champ Faulkner University of Montgomery, Ala., in the first round of the 10-team tournament.
Having gone 46-9 overall and 23-3 in the Mid-South Conference, the Tigers rallied from the consolation bracket to beat Mount Vernon Nazarene 11-4 last Thursday to earn the No. 5 seed.
That had to bring a smile to new Georgetown president M. Dwaine Greene, who played college baseball at Campbell University in North Carolina.
A native of Huntington Beach, Calif., Baumfeld played his college baseball at Medaille College in Buffalo, N.Y. After being an assistant at Pasadena City College in California, Baumfeld came to Georgetown College as pitching coach in 2010. He was promoted to head coach for the 2012 season.
The Tigers finished 45-11 in Baumfeld's first year and 36-19 last season, and the coach knew he had the talent to be good again this year if everything fell into place.
"Bringing kids from all over — California, Texas, Kentucky, Iowa — whether we would jell concerned me," said the coach. "I knew we had the talent to do big things."
The team jelled and then some, Baumfeld said, in large part because captains Justin Moore, a senior from Los Angeles, and Shaun Meyer, a senior who starred at Newport Central Catholic, have set the tone off the field.
"I've been coaching for 10 years and this is a team where it has been more about the team than themselves," he said. "Every coach wants that, but to get that is a dream. It's really what's carried us all year."
It helps when you have talent too, of course. Martin Lemus, a senior from Lawndale, Calif., was the Mid-South Player of the Year after hitting .337 with 12 homers and 54 RBI in 55 games.
On the mound, former Lexington Catholic star Tyler Arthur was a perfect 8-0 with a 1.73 ERA in 13 starts.
In fact, it's fitting the Tigers are the No. 5 seed in Idaho as "five" has been a magic number all season.
"We're big on pitching and defense," Baumfeld said. "We have a rule if we can score five runs or give up four or less we're going to win all our games. That's our goal offensively and defensively. When we do that, I think the numbers show that we win 90 percent of our games. Our guys know that."
The regional tournament in Marion, Ind., reinforced that, especially after Georgetown lost to Spring Arbor 8-4 in the opening game.
Bad weather wreaked havoc with the tournament schedule. Stuck in the consolation bracket, the Tigers had to win three games in one day.
They were locked in a 4-4 tie with Mount Vernon Nazarene in the second game when Baumfeld heard his players repeating the mantra.
"They were saying, 'Hey, we've got to get to that five. We're going to win this game if we get to that five.' That's what we've been preaching all season."
The Tigers won 5-4 to force a second game in which the Tigers also triumphed, this time 11-4.
And as it happens, it will take five wins for the Tigers to take the NAIA title.
"After that bad regional game, the pitching and hitting both showed up the rest of the games," Baumfeld said. "Hopefully, we can continue that in the World Series."