Duane Monlux says the hard part is over. Now it's time for his team to have some fun.
"I tell the guys the most stressful part is the opening round. It's getting there," the Bellevue coach said of reaching the NAIA World Series. "We're going to play loose and see where that takes us."
The Bruins (45-8) won all three games in the opening round of the national tournament, including a 13-3 victory over Oklahoma City in the final, to make a return trip the series. They went 1-2 last season.
Now they are the fifth seed for the event in Lewiston, Idaho. Bellevue opens against fourth-seeded William Carey (Miss.) at 5 p.m. Friday.
"Any team that wins there is getting production throughout the lineup," Monlux said. "They're getting really good pitching and good hitting."
The Bruins have gotten all of that, too. Bellevue is hitting .347 as a team and averaging 9.7 runs per game. The team ERA is 4.00 paced by Dustin Schorie, who is 9-0 with a 2.06 ERA. Blake Crippen and Alexandro Celiceo also have 10 wins apiece.
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"We have a lot of fight, we have a lot of character, we have a lot of pride wearing our jersey and we're playing for each other, everyone's rooting for each other," said freshman outfielder Tony Lind, an Omaha Central grad who is batting .342 with 49 RBIs in 47 games. "I think we can go a long ways if we stay together."
Bellevue lost All-America shortstop Alec Ackerman to a torn rotator cuff this season, but players like Lind have stepped in to make the Bruins one of the NAIA's most potent offenses.
"I'm just happy to be a part of it, anyway I can help my team," Lind said.
Kanta Kobayashi is batting a team-best .396 with 78 runs, Logan Grant is hitting .377 with 68 RBIs while Jake Lacey has 13 homers and 70 RBIs.
Monlux, in his 13th season as Bellevue coach, is proud of the consistency the program has shown as it heads to its fourth World Series since 2016. The top six seeds at the World Series are southern schools — except for Bellevue.
"We're in a challenging sport being a northern school," Monlux said. "For us to do that as a northern school, I'm very proud of that," Monlux said. "We're very proud that we're able to sustain good baseball."
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