The University of the Cumberlands Patriots were two outs away from going into the bottom of the ninth inning with host Campbellsville University tied 7-7. But with bases loaded right fielder Temple Macdonald stepped to the plate and delivered his second home run of the game, a grand slam over the right field fence.
That hit proved to be the difference in the number two and number three seed for the Patriots in this week’s NAIA Region XI Tournament at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee.
The Tigers won the game, 11-7 and went on to capture the Mid-South Tournament title, denying the Patriots a sweep as they took the regular season title over Campbellsville.
Two weeks ago the Patriots and Tigers battled their way through the Mid-South Conference Tournament and ended the week in the championship game. Instead of playing the championship game then, the coaches had voted to play the title game at the site of the winner’s bracket champion, thus Campbellsville became that site after sending Cumberlands to the losers’ bracket. The Patriots defeated Pikeville to reach the tournament finals.
It would take two wins by the Patriots to knock off last year’s tournament champions. With the bats in full swing and Clemson transfer, Adam Walker scattering ten Campbellsville hits over nine innings, the Patriots picked up a 5-3 win.
The Cumberlands unloaded on three Campbellsville pitchers for 18 hits, scoring five runs. However, coach Brad Shelton wasn’t pleased with the fact that his team left 12 runners stranded.
Catcher Robert Mills, a freshman from Cheyenne, (NV) High School, led the Patriots from the plate, going three of five with two RBI’s. Corbin’s own B.J. Foley was one of five but had two RBI’s as well.
In the championship game, the Pats took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second then added a solo run in the third for a 3-1 margin. Cumberlands took a 4-1 lead in the game but the Tigers sliced the margin to one with two runs in the top of the sixth.
The Patriots gave themselves some breathing room in the bottom of the seventh when Chaz Gentry hit a single down the third base line. Victor Wooldrige followed with a base hit up the middle and Chris Wood’s double to centerfield allowed Gentry to cross the play.
Woolridge and Wood scored on a Mills base hit between first and second.
However, the Tigers were not finished. With two on, Macdonald hit a home run that tied the game at 7-7.
The Cumberlands tried to push the lead to five in the bottom of the 8th when Cartas doubled down the right field line with one out. Gentry moved Cartas to third on a sacrifice grounder but Donnie Johnson struck out the tough Wooldridge, who was two of three prior to that at-bat.
The Patriots were assured of a spot in the regional tournament despite a loss to Campbellsville and actually moved up a spot in the seeding after Trevecca Nazarene finished third in the TranSouth Conference Tournament.
The Trojans are no stranger to Shelton and the Patriots. It was the Cumberlands that knocked off the number one seeded team in last year’s regional tournament on their way to a runner-up finish.
The Trojans are 39-18 after finishing third in their conference tournament. “This is pretty much the same team we played last year when they were the number one seed,” said Shelton.
“We went in and upset them and got us on a good run to the championship.”
“They are going to be fired up and trying to prove a point,” Shelton said. “I don’t know who we are going to see, they have two really good arms with the (Eric) Van Slyke kid, who is 13-2 or the kid that threw so well last year, Barrett Brown. They are both right handers.”
“We need to do what we do well and minimize our mistakes,” said Shelton. “We feel like we can put up runs against the best pitching staffs.
To win the tournament, Shelton said. “I think we have to swing the bats like we have been swinging them.”
“We have to make defensive plays so our pitchers can stay out there longer and not have to get four or five outs an inning,” said Shelton.
“It is going to take one or two guys to step up out of the bullpen to help us win those nine inning games,” he said.
“I like our chances if we keep swinging the bats the way we have been,” said Shelton. “Pitching will definitely be a key to winning this tournament. We want to try and score every inning with a possibility of a big inning.”
Cumberlands games can be heard live on the web at www.ucumberlands/edu/athletics/live.
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