LEWISTON, Idaho – Richie Seaton drove in the winning run in the 10th inning, sending 23rd-ranked Cumberland into the winner’s bracket final with an 8-7 come-from-behind victory over No. 3 Oklahoma Wesleyan in a wild-and-weird contest here Monday night at Harris Field in the 58th Annual Avista-NAIA World Series.
The Bulldogs (47-19) advanced to take on top-ranked Oklahoma Baptist tonight at 8:30 p.m. CDT in the winner’s bracket final. Cumberland trailed 3-0 after a half inning and 7-5 in the fourth inning, but single runs in the sixth and eighth innings tied the game, setting up Seaton’s RBI single to center that plated Josciel Veras in the bottom of the 10th.
“These guys never quit and we’ve seen that the last three weeks,” Cumberland coach Woody Hunt said on his postgame radio show. “We’re not the most talented team, but we’ve got heart.”
The club would not have been in position for the win if not for (tying) the longest relief outing in NAIA World Series history turned in by right-hander Clint Meadows, who entered the contest in the first inning after CU starter Kevin P. Greene gave up two runs and did not record an out.
Meadows (8-4) worked 10 innings in all, giving up four runs on nine hits with one walk and four strikeouts. OKWU did not score after taking the lead in the fourth inning, though, stranding just three runners over the final six innings.
“Didn’t want to take Kevin out of the game, but felt he wasn’t on,” Hunt said. “Clint pitched out of tight jams.”
The Eagles (56-7) had their 29-game winning streak stopped with the loss but will kick themselves for a pair of baserunning mistakes that probably cost them the game. OKWU reliever Sam Haynes (8-2) took the loss, allowing two runs on four hits in four-plus innings of relief.
In the third inning Cody Riley led off with a double down the left-field line and moved to third on Will Price’s grounder to second. Trae Bobo flied out down the right-field line and Riley scored on the play, but Cumberland appealed that the runner left early and he was called out, keeping the OKWU edge at three.
Then in a tie game in the ninth inning, Jeff Butler drew a one-out walk and Jose Ruiz hit a long fly ball down the right-field line. The ball landed just inside the foul line but Butler thought it was foul and headed back toward first. Ruiz was watching the ball and passed the runner halfway between first and second, an automatic out.
Seaton got the ball back into the infield quickly and eventually Tyler Anderson tagged out Butler in a rundown for the third out of the inning.
“I don’t know why the base runner ever thought [it was caught],”Hunt said. “It was a game-winning double play, maybe the most unusual I’ve ever seen, especially in a World Series.”
That set-up the bottom of the 10th, with Veras ripping a single down the first base line with one out. Byrd, who finished 3-for-4 with two runs scored and one RBI, followed with a walk, and he also broke up a double play at second base on a grounder by Anderson, with Butler throw to first pulling Riley off the bag and keeping the inning alive. Seaton drilled a 3-1 pitch into center field to plate the winning run and keep the Bulldogs undefeated in the tournament.
Ricky Coleman added three hits and Veras and Seaton each posted two for CU. Veras’ check-swing two-run single in the third inning tied the contest and Anderson plated a pair of runs with sacrifice flies as well as adding a single.
The top four players in the Eagles lineup – Avery Flores, Butler, Ruiz and Riley – all registered two hits, while Ruiz had a three-run homer and Riley drove in a pair of runs. Garrett Easton added two hits for Oklahoma Wesleyan as well.
The Eagles got off to a great start, with a leadoff single from Flores followed by a walk to Butler. Ruiz was hit, loading the bases, and Riley’s single to right plated two runs and ended the day for Greene.
Meadows did a good job limiting any further damage, with just one more run coming across on a groundout from Easton and OKWU took a 3-0 advantage after a half inning, though it could have been worse for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs took advantage of the momentum after Riley was called out on the appeal to take the lead with five runs on four hits in the bottom of the third, starting with a leadoff walk to Bryan Haney. A passed ball moved the runner to second and with one out, Coleman beat out a chopper over the mound, putting runners on the corners.
Sam Lind followed with a RBI single to right and Easton let the ball under his glove, allowing Coleman to take third. Brady North walked, loading the bases, and a check-swing single to right by Veras scored a pair of runs, with Lind running through the stop sign at third but sliding in ahead of the cut-off throw.
Byrd singled to right, plating another run, and Anderson’s line drive to center drove home Veras, giving CU a 5-3 advantage.
The Eagles answered right back in the top of the fourth, though, as Brice McCulloch singled to right with one out and Flores bounced one off the glove of Meadows with two outs. Butler dumped an RBI single into right-center before Ruiz drilled a 3-1 pitch well over the wall in dead center field, his 14th of the year, giving OKWU a 7-5 edge.
“I can see why they won so many games,” Hunt said of the Eagles, who lost 10-5 to the Bulldogs in a midweek game at Woody Hunt Stadium in March. “I doesn’t matter what happens. We complete hard, maybe the hardest I’ve ever had.”
Cumberland cut into the deficit in the sixth with three singles, the first on a bunt by Byrd. Seaton singled sharply to left with two outs before Haney ripped a single off the glove of a diving Bobo at third base. Byrd scored on the play and OKWU starter Zach Hendrix exited the game for the Eagles, giving up six runs on nine hits with three walks and five strikeouts.
Chris Hall drilled a one-hopper into the hole on the right side off Haynes, but Butler made a terrific play, knocking it down and throwing out the speedy Hall to end the inning with the Eagles still leading by a run.
The Bulldogs tied the contest in the eighth with a one-out triple to right-center from Byrd and Anderson’s second sac fly of the contest, knotting the score at seven and setting up the late-inning theatrics.