LEBANON, Tenn. – Hector Morales, Jared Schmidt, Carlos Moseley and Mikel Gordon each homered for Cumberland, but 24th-ranked Freed-Hardeman scored 10 combined runs in the fifth and sixth innings, pulling away for a 13-8 victory in the NAIA Baseball Championship Opening Round on Monday in Upland, Ind.
The Phoenix (34-20) play again Tuesday at 11 a.m. CT against Northwestern College and with a victory, would play again Tuesday night versus Taylor University.
Cumberland scored twice in the second inning on a solo homer by Schmidt and a sacrifice fly from Morales and Moseley’s two-run blast in the fifth made it 4-1 Phoenix, but the Lions (41-14) took the lead for good with four runs in the bottom of the fifth and tacked on six more in the sixth for a commanding 11-4 advantage.
A solo homer in the eighth by Morales and Gordon’s three-run shot in the ninth was too little, too late for Cumberland.
FHU freshman hurler Austin Steel (10-2) worked eight innings for the win, giving up four earned runs on eight hits. The righthander walked four and struck out seven, allowing at least one baserunner in every inning but getting in-and-out of trouble, stranding eight.
Despite the early lead, Cumberland starter Polo Portela (8-3) was unable to stop the Lions bats, giving up eight runs on nine hits in 5.1 innings. He walked one and struck out four.
Schmidt, Morales and Jordan Hunt each posted two hits and Moseley scored twice for the Phoenix.
Josh Sears, who was 3-for-4 with two RBIs and three runs scored, put Freed-Hardeman ahead early with a two-out solo homer to left in the first inning.
Schmidt’s solo shot tied the game in the second inning and Caleb Kellogg followed with a single and advanced to third on a failed pickoff attempt by Steel. Morales’ sac fly made it 2-1 CU.
Portela allowed just two hits and one batter reached on a wild pitch after a strikeout after the Sears home run through four innings.
Hunt led off the fifth inning with a single for Cumberland and with two outs, Moseley belted a two-run homer to left for a 4-1 Phoenix advantage.
The Lions answered in the bottom of the frame, starting with a bunt single by Cody Duncan and a single to center from Joe Leatherwood. Bryce Lester walked, loading the bases, and a single to right by Wes Brooks plated two runs.
Lester stole third and Brooks took second on a fly ball to right by Aden Campbell when the throw went toward the plate. De’Mikyl Holmes then doubled to right, scoring two more runs for a 5-4 FHU lead.
Freed-Hardeman broke the game open in the sixth with six runs on five hits, with a double by Darcy Moore leading off the inning. Duncan bunted but Moore was thrown out at third on the play. Leatherwood was hit and the runners stole second and third.
Lester singled to right, plating a pair of runs, and Brooks greeted CU reliever Blake Young with a two-run homer to center. Sears then walked and Campbell singled before a wild pitch moved Sears to third. He scored on a groundout by Holmes and Griffin Siebert plated the final run with a double down the leftfield line for an 11-4 FHU advantage.
Morales hit his solo homer with one out in the eighth, but Sears and Kaimana Ancog answered with solo shots for the Lions in the bottom of the inning.
In the ninth Moseley and Sierra both walked before Gordon’s three-run homer cut the deficit to 13-8. Schmidt walked and Morales doubled later in the inning, but Kellogg lined out and Hunt grounded out to end the contest.