Top Dawgs for third time
Updated May 31, 2014 at 11:27 PM
LEWISTON, Idaho — Cumberland’s baseball team collected its third NAIA national championship Friday night with a 3-0 win over host Lewis-Clark State in the World Series.
Anthony Gomez joined Eddie Ortega  and Aaron Wilkerson  in going the distance in a title-winning performance.
The left-handed Gomez, from the same California hometown as Ortega, beat the Warriors for the second time in the tournament, allowing 12 hits and one unearned run in 18 innings as Cumberland became the lowest-seeded team, at No. 10, to win the championship with a 49-20 record.
All three championships came at Harris Field. One of the two title losses also came here with an extra-inning loss to the Warriors.
But the Dawgs wouldn’t be denied this time as Gomez worked around three errors, three walks, a hit batter and six hits to improve to 7-4 for the season.
“It was one of our goals to win a championship against them,” Hunt said. “That shows how much respect we have for them. This team has a special makeup.
“This week has been a tough week… This has been a gift from God, this team coming together.”
Richie Seaton’s opposite-field double past a diving left-fielder Raymond Pedrina and into the corner gave Cumberland a 2-0 second-inning lead.
Josciel Veras’ hot smash through the third baseman’s glove scored Friendship Christian-graduate Chris Hall in the seventh for a 3-0 lead.
Senior second baseman Sam Lind, a former Vanderbilt Commodore, was all but impossible to get out and he was rewarded with the World Series Most Valuable Player award.
Two walks and an error put Gomez in first-inning trouble with one out, but a strikeout and fielder’s choice got the left-hander off the first-inning hook.
The Warriors, playing before 5,010 fans, threatened again in the second on back-to-back two-out singles before Gomez escaped via a flyout.
There was no escape for Lewis-Clark starter Ty Jackson in the bottom of the second as Seaton’s opposite-field double into the left-field corner scored Justin Byrd and Tyler Anderson for a 2-0 Cumberland lead, chasing Jackson.
An error and hit batter in the fourth was erased when Lind started a 4-6-3 double play. A Jake Shirley leadoff single in the fifth was followed by three quick outs.
Another error in the sixth gave the Warriors another opportunity. But Lind started another 4-6-3 to erase the threat.
Lewis-Clark coach Jeremiah Robbins, who replaced the legendary Ed Cheff last season, used a pitching staff by committee. Jackson was followed by Gunnar Swanson, who held the Bulldogs scoreless for 4 2/3 innings until the sixth when David Murillo took over.
In the seventh, the slumping Hall, whose average had dipped below .400, took one for the team for the 20th time this season and, following a slap single by Lind, scored on Veras’ hard-hit grounder went through the third baseman’s glove for an error and a 3-0 lead.
Lewis-Clark tried to come back in the eighth with a two-out Cody Lavalli single and a Michael Sexton popup which dropped fair by an inch down the right-field line for a double. But Hall tracked down Jacob Cano’s fly ball to left to end the threat.
In the ninth, Pedrina led off the ninth with a single to center field. Following a groundout and a strikeout, Jake Shirley took a close 3-2 pitch for ball four, evoking memories of Adam Tomlinson possibly getting squeezed in extra innings of the 2006 title game against the Warriors on a bases-loaded game-deciding walk.
But Chris Woolley grounded out to Ricky Coleman at third base and, at 11:05 p.m. CDT, the Bulldogs went into the Dawgpile with their third national championship.
Cumberland took the area lead in NAIA baseball championships. When the school returned to four-year status in the mid-1980s, David Lipscomb College was the standard-bearer with two titles in 1977 and ’79 under the late legendary coach Ken Dugan. Hunt used the Bisons as the measuring stick during the early years of his tenure at CU.
Cumberland is expected to have one more year in the NAIA before entering the transition into NCAA Division II. CU’s athletic programs will be ineligible for postseason play for a couple of years during the changeover.
But for this year, CU is 26-6 since April 1. Shortstop Veras was injured. Tyler Anderson moved from third base to shortstop and Coleman took over at third, solidifying the infield defense. Veras took over at designated hitter when he returned.
“We didn’t get ranked in March and it was our own fault,” Hunt said of a 13-10 month. “We became a good team in April.
“It’s a surreal feeling. I don’t know if it’s happening… We thought we had to win two games [in the Mid-South Conference tournament] just to get into the [NAIA Opening Round], and we won the tournament.”
The 2004 team won its last 19 games to win the championship. The 2010 squad was probably the most dominant in school history with a 58-9 record. By comparison, the ’14 team spent much of the season seeking an identity before finding its niche in its grit and determination.
“We’ve had more talented teams that didn’t even make it out here,” Hunt said. “This team just had so much determination.”