PADUCAH, Ky. – A pair of two-out errors in the ninth opened the door for Cody Gaskill’s two-run double and Tennessee Wesleyan waited out and a three-hour and 21-minute rain delay, defeating Cumberland University, 5-3, on Friday in the 2011 McDonald’s NAIA Championship Opening Round here at Brooks Stadium.
Tennessee Wesleyan (39-18) advances to the championship game set for 1 p.m. Saturday while Cumberland will play at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday against either Southern Poly or William Jewell.
Cumberland (44-15) tied the contest in the bottom of the seventh inning after the rain delay, with T.J. Murphy driving in a pair of runs with a single to left. He was named the Music City Star of the Game for his efforts.
CU reliever Keith Kirby (4-4) cruised through five-plus innings of relief before second baseman Tommy Crews booted consecutive grounders off the bat of Stephen Branca and Jonny Smith with two outs in the ninth inning. Gaskill then lined a double into leftcenter, just out of the reach of Bulldog leftfielder Richie Seaton, plating both runners and giving TWC a 5-3 advantage.
Wesleyan’s Noah Piard made it interesting in the bottom of the inning, walking the bases loaded, but David Fanshawe grounded out to end the contest.
Kirby allowed only four hits and walked two in six innings of work to take the loss. Bulldog starter Aaron Wilkerson lasted three-plus innings, giving up three runs on eight hits.
TWC starter David Bergin worked into the seventh before the rains came, allowing one run on six hits with four walks and seven strikeouts. Murphy’s two-run single also plated two runs that Bergin was responsible for.
Matt Brennan (3-5) tossed one inning to get the victory and Piard picked up his sixth save.
TWC scored once in the top of the first inning after Branca led off with a chopper up the middle and stole second. He scored on Bergin’s two-out chopper through the middle.
Smith doubled to leadoff the TWC third and Bergin walked with one out, but Rafael Carlot bounced into a 6-4-3 doubleplay to end the threat. But Wesleyan pushed across two runs in the fourth inning, chasing Wilkerson from the contest.
Sam Munson led off with a single before hit-and-run singles from Jordan Guida and Anthony Boix plated one run and ended the day for Wilkerson. Ryan Santos’ sacrifice fly scored Guida, giving TWC a 3-0 edge.
Tommy Winegardner’s leadoff single in the fourth was the first hit for Cumberland in the contest, but the next batter, Fanshawe, grounded into a doubleplay.
CU got on the board in the fifth after Cory Farris drew a leadoff walk and Richie Seaton singled. With one out Antonio Butler grounded to deep short and Branca’s throw to third was wide and bounced into the dugout, allowing Farris to score and putting runners on second and third. But Greg Appleton bounced out to third and Murphy flied out to left, ending the inning with Wesleyan leading, 3-1.
In the seventh the Bulldogs loaded the bases on a walk to Seaton and singles from Butler and Appleton. Murphy had a 1-2 count and fouled off two pitches before a weather delay forced the teams off the field. A little more than five minutes later the rains came, causing the long delay.
When the game resumed Murphy fouled off two pitches against reliever Corey Collins before finding a hole through the leftside, plating both runners and tying the contest at three.
In the bottom of the ninth pinch-hitter Jesse Bowman, Appleton and Winegardner all walked, but Fanshawe’s grounder to short ended the contest with a flip to second base.