Cumberland University, in Lebanon, TN, won the 54th NAIA National Championship.
Results from day five of the NAIA Baseball National Championship in Lewiston, ID:
The Bulldogs hit four home runs, including a grand slam by 3B Matt Greener, to move to the championship game of this tournament.
The Bulldogs will play Lee for the championship.
Greener and RF Kris Miller entered this game with 26 home runs apiece, tied with Richard Bohlken of Lubbock Christian for the NAIA lead. Greener and Miller are now tied for the lead with 27 home runs.
The first home run of the game was by SS Sam Kikla in the bottom of the first, with one on. The Sea Lions got one back in the top of the third on an RBI double by 2B Tyler Kuehl. The Bulldogs answered with a solo home run by Kikla, and, two batters later, a two-run shot by Miller in the bottom of the third. Kikla’s second home run of the game gives him 20 for the season. It gave the Bulldogs a 5-1 lead after three innings, and they added one more on an RBI single by 1B Greg Appleton in the fourth.
The Sea Lions nearly got back into it. They got three runs in the top of the sixth on an RBI single by RF Jack Diamond, an RBI single by pinch-hitter Alec Martinez, and a sacrifice fly by CFR Allen Boyer. However, in the bottom of the sixth, the Bulldogs loaded the bases on reliever Adam Herter with two errors on ground balls an a walk, and Greener hit the first pitch over the left field fence.
The Bulldogs added three more in the seventh with an RBI single by pinch-hitter Brian Karahalios and a two-RBI single by Greener.
Greener finished the game 2-4 with six RBI, and he is now batting .466. Appleton was 3-4 with an RBI and three runs scored.
Bulldog starter Adam Sprague got the win. He went 7 2/3 innings, allowed only three earned runs on 12 hits, struck out five.
Starter Brandon Dixon got the loss. Diamond an DH Steven Winnick went 2-4 for the Sea Lions.
The Sea Lions have finished in the top four three times in the last seven years.
The Flames started the game with four runs in the top of the first inning, on RBI singles by 3B Tanner Moore and RF Michael Brown, and a two-RBI single by 1B Edgar Molina. They were in control of this game the entire way, but the Eagles missed several chances to get back in it.
The closest the Eagles got was 5-3 after four innings; the Eagles got two runs in the bottom of the fourth on a two-run home run by C Austin Goolsby. The inning ended with a double play.
The Flames broke the game open with a three-run home run by Molina in the fifth. The Eagles got two back in the sixth with a two-RBI triple by pinch-hitter Matt Tomaszewski. They left two on base in the seventh when RF Branden Roper-Hubbert struck out to end the inning. They left two more on base when CF Mike Jutkiewicz struck out to end the eighth. The got a sacrifice fly by DH Jeff Lemon and a home run by 3B Steve Sabins in the bottom of the ninth to make the final score close.
David Eskew got the win for the Flames. He went 6 2/3 innings, allowed five runs on seven hits, struck out four, walked three. Molina finished 3-4 with five RBI. Eagle starter Justin Zinkovich, who lasted 3 1/3 innings, got the loss. Sabins and Jutkiewicz went 2-4.
The Eagles finished in the top four for the fourth time in the last eight years.
The Flames play Cumberland for the championship. The campuses of the two schools are 150 miles apart. They have already played once in this tournament, 2,175 miles from both schools, and the Bulldogs won 11-9. If the Flames win tonight, they will play one more on Friday to decide it.
Aaron Wilkerson pitched a complete game for the Bulldogs, and came two outs short of a shutout.
The Bulldogs started the ninth inning with a 4-0 lead. They missed a good chance to get some more insurance runs in the top of the ninth. They had the bases loaded with no outs on a single by 3B Matt Greener, a double by RF Kris Miller, and a walk by reliever Scott Swinson. The next batter, C David Fanshawe, hit a ground ball to 3B Tanner Moore. Moore threw home for the force out, and C Taylor Comford threw to first for a 5-2-3 double play. The Bulldog half of the ninth ended with a popup in foul territory, and runners at second and third.
The first batter for the Flames in the bottom of the ninth was DH Junior Rodriguez. He drew a walk in a seven-pitch at-bat. The next batter, SS Jose Cuevas, hit a popup to short right field. Miller dropped it, but threw to second to force out Rodriguez, who held at first, thinking that the ball would be caught.
It took a while for Wilkerson to get the second out of the inning. The next batter, 1B Edgar Molina, hit a single, and the batter after him, RF Michael Brown, hit a three-run home run, ending the shutout and turning this into a one-run ball game.
Brown was followed by LF Seth Walker, who hit a ground ball that took a bad bounce over the shortstop’s head. So, the Flames had the winning run at the plate with Comford. He hit a sharp ground ball to the mound. Wilkerson made a good play to grab it and throw to SS Sam Kikla covering second for out number two, and Kikla threw to first to complete the 1-6-3 double play and win Cumberland’s second national championship. (The first one was in 2004.)
Wilkerson, who went eight innings against Embry-Riddle in Cumberland’s first game of the tournament, allowed seven hits, struck out seven, and walked three, to finish the season with a 14-1 record.
All four of the Bulldogs’ runs were batted in by Fanshawe. He started the scoring with a two-run home run in the fourth inning. In the fifth inning, he hit a single to score 1B Greg Appleton, who was hit by a pitch, and Greener, who was walked.
The Flames got a baserunner to third only once prior to the ninth inning. They missed a chance to get something going in the bottom of the seventh when Brown was robbed with a good catch of a popup by 2B T.J. Murphy. Starter Mathew Gilson got his first loss of the season.
Greener finished the game 2-4. CF J.J. Constantino and Molina were 2-4 for the Flames.
Greener was named Player of the Year. Constantino won the Charles Berry Hustle Award.