LEBANON, Tenn. – Cumberland is ranked fifth in the final regular season 2011 NAIA Baseball Coaches' Top 25 Poll released this week by the national office. The Bulldogs received a No. 1 seed in the 2011 NAIA Championship Opening Round – Paducah Bracket, which begins Thursday at historic Brooks Stadium in Paducah, Ky.
Cumberland, 43-14 this season and the TranSouth Conference regular season champions, went 1-2 in last week’s TranSouth Baseball Championships, defeating Freed-Hardeman between losses to Bethel University and Union University.
The Bulldogs will face the winner of William Jewell College, the Heart of America Athletic Conference Tournament champion, and Bellevue University, the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament champion. The Cardinals and Bruins play at 10 a.m. Thursday in the first game of the five-team, double-elimination tournament, with the winner facing Cumberland at 6:30 p.m. that evening.
William Jewell (33-19) was the No. 6 seed in the HAAC Tournament and won four straight games to claim the title. Bellevue (31-20) was the No. 2 seed in the MCAC Tournament and won the conference tourney on the home field on regular season champion York University.
The Bulldogs are making their third straight appearance in the NAIA Championship Opening Round since the format was instituted in 2009. CU was 1-2 in Hattiesburg, Miss., in 2009 and won all three contests last year in Joliet, Ill. The winner of the Paducah Bracket advances to the 55th Annual Avista-NAIA World Series set for May 27-June 3 in Lewiston, Idaho.
Both William Jewell and Bellevue have a long history of trips to the NAIA World Series, with Cardinals making 10 appearances (last in 1983) and the Bruins posting 12 trips (last in 2008). Complete coverage of the NAIA Championship Opening Round - Paducah Bracket, may be found at http://www.gocumberlandathletics.com/baseball/2011naia/.