OZARK, Mo. -- Nothing about the Quincy University baseball team's run through the Great Lakes Valley Conference looked easy.
The Hawks trailed in each of their first four games, not taking the lead for good in any of those until the eighth inning. In fact, the only game in which they never trailed was the last one, an 8-4 victory Indianapolis in Sunday's championship game at U.S. Baseball Park.
"It's stressful," senior right fielder Matt Hilmes said. "But at the end of the day, you find a way to win. It may not look pretty, but if you're scoring more runs and you win, that's all that matters."
With a berth in the NCAA Division II national tournament at stake, the Hawks didn't worry about style points.
Truth be told, they never really worried at all.
A come-from-behind 6-5 victory over Bellarmine in Sunday's elimination game gave Quincy the chance to defend its league title. The Hawks react well to that, scoring three times in two of the first three innings against Indianapolis and ending an exhausting day with a celebratory dogpile on the infield.
"It's unbelievable," junior left fielder Chandler Purcell said. "You never can count the Hawks out."
Certainly not when history is at stake.
The Hawks' fourth GLVC Tournament championship in program history marks the first time they've won the crown in back-to-back years. It guaranteed them a fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance, the longest such streak in program history.
Quincy (39-16) is the fifth seed in the Midwest Region and will face fourth-seeded Ohio Dominican in the first round. The regional schedule has yet to be released, although top-seeded Illinois-Springfield is the host and the games will be played at Robin Roberts Stadium.
"It's easy to be good once, but it's hard to be good twice and it's really hard to keep repeating it," QU coach Josh Rabe said. "We did this after a loss. It wasn't easy. It was hot. Guys were tired. We're playing for our NCAA Tournament life. There was nothing easy about this.
"And our kids just wouldn't be denied."
That common theme was resurrected again in the eighth inning against Bellarmine.
Trailing 5-4 with the bases loaded and one out, Hilmes took a fastball over the outside part of the plate on a 3-1 pitch and whistled it into left field, driving in the tying and go-ahead runs.
"For some reason, pitchers are wanting to pitch me in," said Hilmes, who went 2 for 3 with three RBIs against the Knights. "The whole GLVC Tournament, they've been pitching me in. I've been adjusting and trying to get pitches outside. That pitch right there was probably a little far off the black. It probably could have been a ball off the corner, but that's where I was looking at. I was able to drive it over the shortstop's head."
It was up to the bullpen to finish it off.
That's when everyone got a little nervous.
In the bottom of the eighth, QU sophomore right-hander Alex Pribyl walked the leadoff hitter and gave up a double to Bellarmine's Matt Higgins. Neither runner scored as Pribyl got a pop-up in foul territory that was caught by first baseman Troy Wehde and two groundouts to get out of the inning.
In the ninth, senior closer Cole Crawford found more trouble. He walked a batter and gave up a single, and after back-to-back outs, he walked another to load the bases. The game ended on a lineout to second baseman Cody Birdsong.
"My heart was pounding out in right field," Hilmes said. "I still had faith in them. I knew they would get it done."
After that, it became sophomore left-hander Sam Stephens turn to get the job done.
Stephens had made one previous start, giving up six runs and eight hits in 3 1/3 innings at Upper Iowa, but with the QU pitching staff spent, he got the call against the Greyhounds. He proved up to the task, allowing one run and five hits over five innings with two strikeouts and two walks.
He exited with a 6-1 lead and the Hawks well on their way to the NCAA Tournament.
"It's pretty amazing," Stephens said.
Pitching with a lead helped him relax.
"They went out and put up a bunch of runs, and that takes the pressure off your chest," Stephens said.
The Hawks scored three runs in the first as J.C. DeMuri delivered an RBI double and Purcell had a run-scoring single. In the third, Michael Nielsen had a two-run double and Purcell followed with an RBI double for a 6-0 lead.
"We knew they didn't have many arms left," said Purcell, who was 3 for 4 with three RBIs. "So we knew we had to hop on them early and put the pressure on them and they would crack."
The Greyhounds did. The Hawks didn't.
That's why they were able to celebrate.
"This is one of the many goals we set for ourselves," Purcell said. "It's just a step on the road to where we want to get at the end of the year."
Quincy 6, Bellarmine 5
Quincy 010 030 020--6 10 0
Bellarmine 103 010 000--5 9 0
McDonald, Widhalm (3), Pribyl (8), Crawford (9) and Viaene; Beach, Poe (8), Ethington (8) and Pfaadt. WP--Widhalm (2-0). LP--Poe (0-1). S--Crawford (11). 2B--Quincy 1 (Nielsen), Bellarmine 2 (Finerty, Higgins).
Quincy 8, Indianapolis 4
Quincy 303 010 001--8 12 3
Indy 000 102 001--4 9 1
Stephens, Hirsch (6), Saak (6), Moriarty (8) and Viaene; Crawford, Schalasky (1), Beard (3), Wichman (4), Werner (5), Lonergan (8), Stutsman (9) and Phillips. WP--Stephens (2-1). LP--Crawford (2-3). 2B--Quincy 5 (Wehde, DeMuri, Nielsen, Purcell, Viaene), Indianapolis 2 (Joop, Miller).