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Saturday Morning Quarterback
May 22, 2007 12:00 am
A few weeks ago, someone with longtime connections to Cumberland baseball reluctantly said Trevecca had the better team this year.
He could have proclaimed it over the Woody Hunt Stadium PA system and no one in the park would have disagreed with him that day as the Trojans were in the process of whipping the Bulldogs 14-0 to win the TranSouth Conference regular-season championship.
Losing to a top-10 team like Trevecca was one thing, giving a game away to an outfit which finished with fewer than 10 wins like Mid-Continent may have been worse.
The Bulldogs had experienced such low moments before and bounced back, such as during the 2004 national-championship season. But this team had a lot more holes than that one – slugging and team speed were down from previous editions, the defense was inconsistent, etc. Plus, how many times can you expect to catch lightning in a bottle?
Hunt had some of the same doubts.
"About a month ago things looked bad for us and people doubted that we could do it, and maybe we had some doubts ourselves," Cumberland coach Woody Hunt said a couple of evenings ago. "The Mid-Continent loss was big. that was a tough loss for our team, our whole program.
"The Trevecca loss – if we hadn't come back and won both games the next day, I don't think we would be where we are right now."
Where they are right now is in their fourth straight NAIA World Series. And just as the Bulldogs followed the Mid-Continent loss with a winning streak, the Trevecca debacle has been followed by two tournament championships and a super-region sweep leading to an even bigger one which might run into June.
"Once we won the conference tournament, we got some momentum," said Hunt, noting his hitters got hot and the defense jelled to bolster the already-strong pitching.
And instead of letting the sleeping Dawgs lie, Trevecca followed its championship win with a bonfire-pile celebration on the Stockton Field infield, leaving the Bulldogs seething.
"When Trevecca started celebrating on our field, that got our attention," Hunt said from Barbourville, Ky., where his Bulldogs swept Union in the South Central Super Regional to punch their ticket to Idaho.
While Trevecca celebrated its regular-season title, the Bulldogs have been frying bigger fish. And the Trojans are left watching their softball team [with Wilson Central's Chelsea Bailey and Friendship Christian's Toni Waynick on the roster] swing its way into the NAIA World Series.
Following the Trevecca loss, I posed the question which way would the Bulldogs go; would they follow the lead of their prececessors and answer the bell of adversity or fold?
This team may not have many of the players from the three previous Series teams, which all finished in the top four. But whether it's been leadership from the few holdovers or the work of the coaches or simply the tradition draped over Hunt Stadium, the question has been asked and they have answered.
Maybe Trevecca had the better team in April, but it's the Bulldogs who answered the bell in May.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 17 or by e-mail at email@example.com.