Local players relishing championship victory
Pictured is the Concordia University baseball team after winning the Avista-NAIA World Series on Friday in Lewiston, Idaho. (PHOTO COURTESY OF CONCORDIA ATHLETICS)
Concordia (43-19) which finished at fourth place in the Golden State Athletic Conference in the regular season became the first GSAC team to win the national crown in the 54-year history of the Avista-NAIA World Series and was the first No. 9 seed to do so.
Guillen played every inning of the World Series at shortstop, and after an error early in the game he stayed composed and turned an unassisted double-play to end the game.
“I think I got caught up early in the excitement. It was hard not to be thinking it was a national championship game,” Guillen said. “But the coaches told me to slow things down and have some fun then I got in a groove.”
Guillen’s father saw some of the tournament and his mother and brother Gabriel were at the championship game, which was also special for Baeza, who had been Gabriel’s teammate dating back to Brawley Little League days.
“They call us the ‘guys from Brawley’ and that makes it special and we finish our run by winning a national championship together,” said Guillen.
“We’re like a big family: We played with All-Stars and I played with his brother so it goes back a long way,” said Baeza. “It started on Wiest field with coach (Pedro) Carranza. Without him this wouldn’t be possible.”
Baeza was one of two fifth-year seniors on the Eagle squad who joined the team in 2007 — the year after Concordia made its first trip to the Avista-NAIA World Series.
“I would hang out with the guys and they always talked about the experience of going to Idaho and I made it a goal to get there … this championship is for everyone who ever wore an Eagle uniform,” said Baeza.
Concordia’s coach, Mike Grahovac, who became coach in Baeza and Guillen’s sophomore year, agreed with his catcher.
“For the alumni, this is for them too,” Grahovac was quoted as saying in a press release. “I’m so happy for those guys (Baeza and Guillen). They’ve been doing everything they’re supposed to be doing. They’ve worked hard for this, and they got it done. I’m so proud of them.”
In addition to capturing Concordia athletics’ third national title (2003 men’s basketball, 2000 women’s cross country), the Eagles received the Hank Burbridge Champions of Character Team Award.
“It’s surreal, it’s crazy, I feel like we should still be playing,” Guillen said.