Anthony Sidley did not play in a post-season game for the Cal Lutheran University baseball team when the Kingsmen won the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division III national championship, but the Fallbrook resident was still part of the team.
“It’s still crazy looking back on it thinking we were the best Division III team in the nation,” Sidley said. “I don’t think we ever thought we were going to do that.”
Cal Lutheran won the Southern California Interscholastic Athletic Conference championship, the West Region championship in Tyler, Texas, and the national championship at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wisconsin. The national championship was the first in Cal Lutheran history; the Kingsmen reached the finals in 1992 and 1996.
Sidley began his baseball career at the age of five with Fallbrook Youth Baseball, and he was also involved in the Fallbrook Youth Soccer Club. He attended Fallbrook Street School and Live Oak Elementary School before transferring to Bonsall Elementary School for third grade and spending sixth through eighth grades at Sullivan Middle School. Sidley attended Mission Vista High School rather than Fallbrook High School and played both baseball and soccer for the Timberwolves. He graduated from Mission Vista in 2015.
Sidley played varsity soccer for the Kingsmen as a freshman. He tried out for the Cal Lutheran baseball team and was on the junior varsity squad during 2016. “I saw more opportunity there than I had with soccer,” he said.
A minor back injury forced Sidley to miss pre-season training and he began the 2017 baseball season at the junior varsity level, but Cal Lutheran head coach Marty Slimak promoted Sidley to the varsity early in the season.
“Essentially I was a reserve,” Sidley said.
Sidley is a second baseman, as is Max Weinstein. Following the conclusion of the regular season Weinstein was named to the all-SCIAC first team.
“Our second baseman was probably the best player on the team all around,” Sidley said. “I knew I wasn’t going to get a lot of starting time.”
Slimak played Sidley sparingly but placed him on the travel roster. Sidley appeared in four games in 2017 and had three at-bats. In the seventh inning of Cal Lutheran’s April 18 home game against Shepherd University (Shepherdstown, West Virginia), Sidley doubled for his first collegiate hit and his first collegiate run batted in.
The regular season ended April 29 with a doubleheader at home against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. The Kingsmen swept that doubleheader to begin what would be a 12-game winning streak. Sidley appeared in the second game as a pinch-runner in the sixth inning and advanced to third on Weinstein’s sacrifice fly which scored Cheyenne Giles.
None of the Kingsmen’s post-season games included appearances by Sidley. “I think everybody who was on the bench realized we were doing good with what we had,” he said.
The SCIAC tournament took place May 5-7 in Thousand Oaks, and a win over La Verne and two victories against Redlands gave Cal Lutheran the conference championship. During the May 18-21 West Region tournament Cal Lutheran defeated Concordia University of Austin, Texas in the final after earlier triumphs over Concordia, Centenary (Shreveport, Louisiana), and Rhodes College (Memphis).
Cal Lutheran opened NCAA Division III World Series competition May 26 with a 4-2 win over Wheaton College of Norton, Massachusetts. A 14-5 win over North Central College (Naperville, Illinois) put the Cardinals in the losers’ bracket, although they advanced to the final against Cal Lutheran and the Kingsmen won that 10-8 contest to put Cal Lutheran into the championship series against Washington and Jefferson.
The Presidents took a 12-2 victory in the first game May 29, but a 12-4 Cal Lutheran victory May 30 led to the winner-take-all game later that day which ended as a 7-3 Kingsmen triumph.
“That was a really cool experience just being able to take it all in,” Sidley said of watching the post-season games from the bench. “I was just happy I went for the experience.”
Cal Lutheran had a final record of 40-11. The 1992 team was the only previous Cal Lutheran squad to win at least 40 games in a season.
“For me it’s just a bunch of loose ends kind of came together,” Sidley said of participating on the national championship team. “Looking back at the end realizing that we won it all, it makes it all worth it.”