BP WS opening

For the next two seasons, the route to Lewiston and the Avista NAIA World Series changes, as the tournament will have more of a regionalized look for its Opening Round format.

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics might be looking to change its postseason format for its baseball tournament the next two seasons, the Tribune learned Tuesday.

The current format, which is similar to what the NCAA Division I committee uses for its College World Series, would go away for the Opening Round tournaments and be replaced by a more regionalized system. The new system will be somewhat similar to the format NCAA Division II uses for its 64-team tournament.

The NAIA did not return an email seeking comment.

The change first was reported by Robby Gutierrez as part of a broadcast on his shared Twitter feed, @NAIABall. Indiana Tech baseball coach Kip McWilliams confirmed the impending move on the ABCAatHome virtual coaching clinic later in the day.

According to Gutierrez, the new format for the 46-team event in 2021 will have 31 automatic bids and 14 at-large bids into the Opening Round tournaments. The 2021 tournament will be the final year Lewis-Clark State’s baseball team will earn an automatic bid straight into the Avista NAIA World Series.

In 2022, the first year LCSC will have to qualify for the Series through an Opening Round tournament, there will be 33 automatic bids and 13 at-large bids.

LCSC coach Jake Taylor did not return a phone message seeking comment.

One of the biggest reasons most coaches like the current format is because there’s more balance and more of a chance the best teams from around the country make it to the 10-team field here for the weeklong tournament that concludes the season at the end of May.

With the new format, which is reported to be because of budget cuts that have been caused by the coronavirus, there’s a distinct possibility there could be some regions that are loaded with some of the best teams in the NAIA, while some regions might lack so-called “star” power.

So in 2021, there will be nine regional hosts: the Atlanta area; Kansas; Kingsport, Tenn.; Oklahoma, Missouri, South; Southeast; Upper Midwest and West.

As an example under this format, the Sun Conference top seed, the Appalachian Athletic Conference No. 2 seed and three at-large teams would funnel into the Southeast Region tournament. St. Thomas (Fla.) and Southeastern. two of the powerhouses in the NAIA, are members of the Sun Conference. The Fire finished the 2020 season ranked No. 1 in the coaches’ poll, while the Bobcats were No. 4.

The West Region, where LCSC resides, would have the Golden State Athletic Conference and Cascade Conference (the new conference the Warriors will play in starting in 2020-21) top seeds, the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds out of the California Pacific Conference and an at-large seed. If this would have been in place in 2020, the top seed in the CalPac would have been Benedictine-Mesa, which was ranked No. 19 in the last coaches’ poll. In the GSAC, Westmont would have been the No. 1 seed, and the Warriors were ranked No. 17 in the coaches’ poll.

So you could have a region where the possibility exists of having two or three World Series-caliber teams vying for one berth to the World Series.

In 2022, the breakdown for the 10 Opening Round regions are: Atlanta; Kansas; Kingsport, Tenn.; Lewiston; Midwest South; Michigan/Indiana; Oklahoma; South; Southeast and West. Some of the Opening Round regionals would have four teams and some would have five.

As the example, the breakdown in Lewiston would be LCSC, the CalPac and North Star Athletic Association No. 1 seeds, and an at-large seed.

The Southeast Region breakdown would be the Sun Conference No. 1 seed, the AAC No. 2, the Southern States Conference No. 2 and an at-large bid.

Walden may be reached at (208) 848-2258, dwalden@lmtribune.com, or on Twitter at @waldo9939.

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