SAN ANTONIO – For the first time in school history, the Texas Luthern Bulldog baseball team is headed to the NCAA D-III World Series.
The team defeated Concordia University-Texas, UT Dallas and Willamette University in Spokane, Washington, at the regional NCAA D-III tournament, becoming West Regional champions.
"It was unreal. We had won so many close games; we just needed to get to the point where we had the chance," said senior center fielder Riley Schaefer on the regional title.
"I mean, I have a busted lip from jumping in the dog pile with my guys. It was amazing," Schaefer said.
The NCAA D-III World Series begins Friday in Appleton, Wisconsin.
The Bulldogs said they're planning to focus more on themselves rather than their upcoming opponents.
"We want to compete from the first pitch on. We want to worry about our execution and not their execution," head coach Greg Burnett said. "Who we play doesn't really matter. We want to focus on us."
Focus for the team has been a priority this season as they continue to celebrate and remember a former Bulldog.
Keaton Bohrmann played with many of the current team members before tragically dying in 2017.
"KB4" has become a symbol for the team on and off the field.
Jerseys, shirts, hats, hashtags and even writing "KB4" in the dirt behind the mound at every game they play is how the team has chosen to honor Bohrmann's memory.
"We learned from him, and everything we do right now is for him. With all of our hashtags on Instagram, Twitter, it is all KB4 and it is all for him," senior shortstop Eric Rabinowitz said.
When Rabinowitz was a freshman, Bohrmann "paved the way" for his class, which resulted in a true friendship between the two.
"I think that is the thing to make sure that his parents know that he is still loved and thought of," junior pitcher Nathan Malinovsky said. "We are playing for him and his family."
Burnett has been a coach in college baseball for 25 years, and said he has dreamed of the NCAA D-III World Series just as many of his boys have.
"It is everything you dream for. Every kid grows up wanting to play in a world series. Being a senior, it being my last hoorah. I couldn't ask to go out any other way," Schaefer said.
"I remember sitting on the field and Keaton Boysen, who got the last hit of the game goes, 'Hey, guess what? We are going to Wisconsin!'" Malinovsky said. "I had tears coming out of my eyes because I was so happy about that because there is no better feeling in the world. It was the happiest day of my life so far."
The Bulldogs traveled to Appleton on Wednesday, where they will first take on The College of Wooster Friday at 7:45 p.m.