The Cumberland baseball party is having an experience more akin to an NFL team waiting for the next day’s Super Bowl – anxiously awaiting a winner-take-all championship game.
Most baseball titles are decided in a series or double-elimination tournament. But the unique format of the NAIA World Series has the Bulldogs awaiting the winner of Thursday’s Oklahoma Wesleyan-vs.-Lewis-Clark State game at 6:30 p.m. CDT tonight at L-C ‘s Harris Field in Lewiston, Idaho.
“We relaxed and had a short practice,” Cumberland coach Woody Hunt said of the Bulldogs’ Thursday itinerary. “We’re going to the game tonight.
“We’re worn out. It was good to have a day off, though I would have preferred to have won last night. It’s one game for all [of the marbles]. We’ll be rested up and ready to go.”
Wednesday’s 6-5 loss to Lewis-Clark State had the effect of giving left-handed ace Anthony Gomez an extra day’s rest after he beat the host Warriors 6-1 last Saturday night on 146 pitches in nine innings. He allowed an unearned run in the ninth inning on six hits and six walks with eight strikeouts to improve to 6-4.
“We’ll have an extra day for him,” Hunt said of Gomez. “He’s well rested and ready to go.”
Hunt expected Lewis-Hunt to win last night’s game, but noted Oklahoma Wesleyan has played three extra-inning games, including a loss to Cumberland, and another one-run contest.
“They keep fighting and they got some talented players,” Hunt said of the Eagles. “I think Lewis-Clark will win because it’s awfully tough to beat them in front of their crowd.
“They’re not any more talented than us, but they have the advantage of playing in front of 6,000 of their fans.”
The crowd was “only” 3,870 Wednesday, or even last Saturday [4,175], but it was that full in 2006 when the Warriors edged Cumberland 6-5 in 11 innings in a game many consider the best NAIA championship game of all time.
Tonight’s game will be broadcast locally on WANT FM 98.5 and televised live on ESPN3.
“It’s a great place to be, great for our team,” Hunt said. “Our community has been behind us. I hope we can do it. It’s going to be tough. We think we can be very, very good [tonight].
“Hope we can make Lebanon proud… We’ve had a lot of guys come together at the right time.”