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Cumberland climbs within win of Series
May 22, 2007 12:00 am
BARBOURVILLE, Ky. — Cumberland hasn't played at Union College's Harlan Sanders Field since the schools were rivals in the Mid-South Conference some five years ago. Yet, the Bulldogs find themselves in familiar territory for the fourth straight season – one win from the NAIA World Series.
CU won Game 1 of the best-of-three Battle of the Bulldogs, officially known as the South Central Super Regional, 6-4 Thursday at Jerry W. Carey Stadium.
Both teams put up double digits in hits against the staff aces. But it was Cumberland's Robert Clayton who took advantage of his hitters twice coming from behind to improve to 12-2 for the season. Cumberland will carry a 47-18-1 record into today's 1:30 p.m. CDT Game 2. Senior left-hander Zach Whitmer [7-4] will pitch for CU. Union needs a win to force a rubber match at noon Saturday with the champion advancing to the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho.
"We got a long way to go," Cumberland coach Woody Hunt said. "We got to win another game up here. They're a very good team. They could beat us two games in a row. They have that kind of offense."
Cumberland used the long ball to overcome deficits. Courtney Propst's ninth home run of the season brought the Bulldogs into a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Jason Bush hit a one-out single to right field an inning later, stole second and scored the go-ahead run on Austin Morgan's hit, which got past the center fielder to put the batter at third base. Kyle West singled down the right-field line to plate Morgan.
Clayton retired the final 15 Union batters, counting the sixth when Kenny Kysar, with around 30 stolen bases this season, was thrown out by catcher Luis Martinez trying to steal and in the ninth when he was erased on a game-ending double play after being hit by a pitch. The workhorse right-hander allowed 12 hits, 11 in the first four innings. He walked one and struck out seven in throwing 126 pitches.
"We played great defense and Robert pitched well after a slow start," Hunt said. "They're a good-hitting team. They have more team speed than we've seen.
"[Martinez's throw to nail Kysar] made a statement. Luis threw a rocket down there. That was a big-league throw, throwing a good runner out."
Union's Marty Popham surrendered 10 hits and a walk while fanning five in firing 123 pitches in eight innings. He fell to 6-3 and his Bulldogs to 46-16.
Kysar collected three hits in the leadoff spot. He singled to open the game and, after Matt Mahony singled and stole second, Luis Pimental singled both home for a 2-0 lead.
Cumberland got those runs back plus one in the bottom half when Propst and Eric Mull hit back-to-back triples and Martinez homered to right.
Union tied the score 3-3 on three hits in the third with Brett McAlpin poking the RBI single. Jason Hart's single, the last of three Bulldog hits in the fourth, put the host team ahead 4-3.
Propst, Mull and Bush each banged out a pair of hits.
"It was a well-played game by both teams," Hunt said. "We just got some clutch hits."