The Hawks hope this western venture turns out to be an extended stay.
No. 18-ranked Shorter (37-17) will make its first postseason appearance since 2003 after being granted an at-large berth into the NAIA Baseball National Championship opening round.
The Hawks, who finished fourth in the Southern States Athletic Conference regular season standings and third at the SSAC Tournament two weekends ago, are destined for Los Angeles, Calif., after earning the No. 2 seed in the Azusa Bracket.
Shorter will open up Opening Round play on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. PDT (6:30 p.m. EDT) against third-seeded College of Idaho out of Caldwell, Idaho.
If Shorter successfully navigates through its region, which also includes host, top-seed and No. 4-ranked Azusa Pacific (44-10), fourth-seeded Arizona Christian (33-21) and fifth seed Menlo (29-25), the Hawks would be off to Lewiston, Idaho for their first ever NAIA World Series appearance.
The Hawks are back in the national playoffs for the first time in nine years and are making their first appearance in the NAIA Baseball National Championship since the organization shifted from region playoffs to the current opening round format four years ago.
Shorter has now made three national appearances in the tenure of head coach Matt Larry – the first two coming in 1998 and 2003 with Larry as an assistant after the Hawks won the Georgia Alabama Carolina Conference title and advanced to the Region XIII Tournament.
The Hawks snagged the seventh of 16 at-large bids to the Opening Round and are one of five SSAC members to make the field. SSAC Tournament champion and second-ranked Lee and regular season champ and No. 5-ranked Faulkner are both top seeds in their respective Opening Round venues. No. 15 Auburn-Montgomery and unranked Southern Poly are the No. 2 and No. 4 seeds, respectively, in the Daytona Beach Bracket, which features top-seeded Embry-Riddle (Fla.).
On paper, Azusa Pacific enters as the odds on favorite to advance out of the Azusa Bracket. The Cougars are one of only two teams in the bracket that has World Series experience, having made five trips to Lewiston, the most recent in 2008.
Azusa Pacific picked up the second at-large bid after falling just short of an 11th Golden State Athletic Conference title this spring.
The Cougars are 10-10 in World Series play, but have never won a national championship. Like Shorter, Azusa Pacific is headed for NCAA Division II next season.
The College of Idaho was another at-large selection into the tournament field and heads to California after finished as runner-up in the Unaffiliated Group No. 2 Tournament Championship to upstart Menlo. The Coyotes are making their sixth postseason appearance and second in three years after making four trips in a five-year span from 1998 to 2002.
The College of Idaho won the 1998 NAIA World Series title and finished as runner-up in 1999.
Menlo secured their first-ever trip to the NAIA Opening Round by coming back from the brink of elimination in the Unaffiliated Group No. 2 Tourney and stunning top-seeded College of Idaho, which had beaten Menlo 9-2 earlier in the tournament. The Oaks defeated the College of Idaho 1-0 and 5-4 in 10 innings to earn its NAIA berth.