1993 FOURTH ROUND
This is the fourth of a seven-part series recapping classic games in NAIA World Series history.
The recurring theme at the NAIA World Series seems to be rain delays. In Des Moines, Iowa, in 1993, a two-hour, 15-minute rain delay occurred before the opening game of the series. Another rain delay during the game set the tournament back so late, the last game of the day ended at 1:03 a.m. The delays apparently did not affect the opening pitcher of the series, Ivan Lawler of St. Francis. He threw a complete game in an 11-3 victory against Point Loma in the opener.
Lawler was scheduled to take the mound again, four days after the opener, to face Cumberland, but rain washed out the whole day of play. The extra rest for the right-handed Lawler, and his opposing pitcher, Jed Dorough, set up one of the most memorable fourth-round games in series history.
The left-handed Dorough had thrown a complete game against Marian in the second round three days earlier. He was trying to help Cumberland fight its way through the loser’s bracket, after a first-round loss. St. Francis was the only undefeated team of the remaining four.
Southeastern Oklahoma eliminated Point Loma in the first game of round four, and watched from the stands to see who its opponent would be the next day for the title. Coaching in the visiting dugout was the legendary Gordy Gillespie, the all-time leader in coaching wins in the NAIA, who was looking for his fourth series title. Gillespie had won three straight from 1974-76 with Lewis University of Illinois. The home dugout was manned by Cumberland coach Woody Hunt, the third all-time winningest coach. Lewis-Clark State’s coach Ed Cheff is in between the two in total victories.
Lawler and Dorough battled to a scoreless tie after nine innings, then 10, 11 and 12 innings. The two Hall of Fame coaches stayed with their starter into the 13th. Lawler had escaped three bases-loaded situations, and the Bulldogs’ Dorough had surrendered just six hits. But the seventh hit off Dorough was a fly ball hit over his right fielder’s leaping stab, scoring a Fighting Saint with the only run of the game.
Lawler returned to the mound in the bottom of the inning, and on his 196th pitch induced a pop-up to end the game and send St. Francis to the final. The pitch count set an NAIA World Series record. For the hard-luck loser Dorough, he threw “just” 160 pitches. Both pitchers tied the series record for innings pitched (13), and the game is one of three in series history to go 12 innings without a run.
“That was the greatest game of all time,” Gillespie said. “In all my years, I’ve never seen or been part of a game like that.” That’s pretty impressive coming from someone who coached more than 2,800 games in 59 years.
The rain stayed away, and St. Francis defeated Southeastern Oklahoma the next day (Lawler did not pitch), and earned Gillespie his fourth and final national championship. Hunt settled for third place, but since has returned to the series 10 times and won three titles.