Members of the USI Baseball team were honored Monday for their success on the diamond but, most importantly, they were good stewards of the university off of it, officials said.
On Saturday, USI defeated Colorado Mesa in an extra-inning nail-biter, 3-2. The win earned the Screaming Eagles their third NCAA Division II National Championship in school history. The team made it's way back to Evansville and received a homecoming fit for a national champion.
Sitting atop Perry Township fire trucks, sporting their new 'national champion' apparel, members of the baseball team made their way from the parking lot of the old Wal-Mart on the city's west side. From there, the team traveled on the Lloyd Expressway back to campus. Along the route, people stopped, honked, cheered and supported the team.
Many of the players missed Graduation Day while on their way to a national title. But once the team reached campus, students, faculty and members of the community made sure the players received a party they would never forget.
"My wife and I have been part of this university for over 40 years. This is our third national championship. It gets even more exciting every time," said Bruce Baker, a longtime supporter of USI. "We just love USI, as many people do. We're just proud when out athletes perform so well on the national scene and become successful."
After the brief parade, the team and it's raucous fan base gathered at the PAC for a brief ceremony. Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke declared June 2, 2014 as 'USI Baseball Day."
The team was quick to thank it's fans for all of their support.
"We looked at that draw and you couldn't have a tougher road," Baker said. "We defeated all of the number one, two, three and four ranked teams. That speaks volumes."
The team was easy to rally around because of their determination and sportsmanship, Baker said.
"You don't win a national championship without having that kind of grit, that kind of determination and they've had it since day one," Baker said. "I think that's the reason why they won. They played as a team."