LEBANON, Tenn. – Jordan Hunt belted a grand slam down the leftfield line with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, backing up 4.2 innings of relief by Andy Garretson, helping Cumberland escape with an 8-7 victory over Northwestern College in the NAIA Baseball Championship Opening Round on Tuesday in Upland, Ind.
The Phoenix (35-20) advances to play host Taylor University at 11 a.m. CT on Wednesday in another elimination game.
Cumberland trailed 7-2 in the bottom of the fifth when rain and high winds delayed the contest three-and-a-half hours. The Phoenix returned with two runners on base and Mykel Gordon delivered a two-run double, cutting the deficit to 7-4.
Garretson (1-0) did his part to keep the Red Raiders (30-20) in check over the final four innings, retiring 12 of the final 15 batters of the game while allowing two singles (one runner reached on an error). Nine of his 14 outs in the contest were via the strikeout, including seven in the last four innings. He gave up one run on four hits with one walk altogether to post the victory.
Sidearmer Victor Mena shut down the Cumberland offense as well after the break, giving up the double to Gordon before retiring eight straight batters. With two outs in the eighth, though, he lost his control, issuing walks to Jared Schmidt and Hector Morales with a single by Caleb Kellogg sandwiched in-between, loading the bases.
Hunt belted a 1-0 pitch down the leftfield line and over the wall just inside the foul pole for his fifth home run of the season and the second grand slam this year for the Phoenix as a team. Mena (3-4) gave up four runs on three hits with two walks and two strikeouts in four innings of relief.
Cumberland starter Travis Dohr lasted 4.1 innings, allowing six runs on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Gordon posted two hits and two RBIs, Hunt added two hits to go with his grand slam and pinch-runner Daulton Smith scored twice running for Nick Mira.
Matt Martin paced the Red Raiders, going 3-for-4 with two runs scored while Dustin Gaither recorded two hits and two runs scored and Ben DeBoer drove in three runs.
Northwestern got on the board first when Reed Smith was hit to leadoff the game and took second on a wild pitch. He scored on Martin’s two-out single down the leftfield line for a quick lead for the Red Raiders.
The Phoenix answered with two runs in the bottom of the frame after Mira and Carlos Moseley were both hit by Northwestern starter Mitchel Kresnik. Gordon singled with one out to load the bases and Schmidt’s two-run single to right gave Cumberland a 2-1 edge.
Things stayed that way until the fourth when Martin and Gaither led off the frame with singles and the throw on Colton Harold’s sacrifice bunt was dropped at first base by Morales, allowing Martin to score. DeBoer’s safety squeeze plated Gaither for a 3-2 Red Raiders edge.
Northwestern added to the lead in the fifth inning, batting around chasing Dohr from the contest in the process.
Smith led off with a walk and Christian Stekl beat out a bunt single before a one-out walk to Martin loaded the bases. Garretson entered and allowed an RBI infield single to Gaither and then walked Harold, forcing in a run. DeBoer’s two-run single to center made it 7-2 for the Red Raiders.
Peyton Wheatley singled and Mira walked before the rain delay in the bottom of the inning. When the teams returned more than three hours later, Gordon doubled down the leftfield line, plating two runs to pull the Phoenix within 7-4.