It's been 11 years since the Ashland University baseball team appeared in the NCAA Division II World Series.
But two players come into this World Series college championship experience.
Second baseman Matt Littrell and right-handed pitcher Devin Peters, both seniors with the Eagles, played for Kankakee Community College, which won the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II World Series in 2017 in Oklahoma.
Kankakee finished the season 54-11-1 and at one point went on a 14-game winning streak. This year's Ashland team is 47-13 and rolled up 17 wins in a row in March and April. The Eagles are 10-3 in postseason play.
Kankakee, on its way to the title, lost the first game at the World Series before reeling off six straight wins to the trophy.
"We got to the World Series and we lost that first game," Peters said. "It became, 'let's just win every inning, as simple as that.' We wound up doing that, got on a roll and couldn't stop."
In this postseason, the Eagles have lost one game in all three of their tournaments, but still rallied to pull off GLIAC and Midwest Regional titles.
"We've actually talked about it this year and seeing similarities in both (teams)," Littrell said. "We definitely see that. The biggest thing is the group chemistry, how well everyone gets along, everyone likes each other, everyone has each other's back. We're all pretty similar in playing styles. We're scrappy, we don't give up. If we're down seven runs, we're going to claw and fight our way back."
That's not to say they need to lose to pull off another run through tournament play. The Eagles would love to be sitting undefeated going into championship play. But they know they have past experience in their back pocket should they need it. That includes Littrell and Peters, who won a national title just two years ago.
"You try to use that experience individually, but it's hard to give experience for people that haven't been there," said Littrell. "In the sense of coming from behind and clawing our way back, there are similarities for sure. You just know you always have a shot with this group."
Littrell won the NJCAA World Series MVP in 2017, batting .500 (13-for-26) with 14 runs, 15 RBI, four doubles, a homer, and eight walks. Peters was the winning pitcher in the Cavaliers' penultimate game at the championships, giving up three runs in six innings.
"We were young. I think the awe of the moment got to us," Littrell said. "I'm not going to say that's why we lost the first game, but once we had that moment, got past that first game, it's ok now we're down to business. That'll be the key for the younger guys who haven't experienced it."
It's their experience and a team mentality that will help when things get tight in big moments.
"This year, everyone's together, you can trust everyone," said Peters. "When we're in a big moment or someone makes an error, we have each other's backs."
The Eagles, the No. 4 seed in the NCAA Division II Baseball Championships, will begin play on Saturday (June 3) at 3 p.m. at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. against No. 5-seed Central Missouri.