Bulldogs blast way to championship game with 13-7 victory
LEWISTON, Idaho – Sam Kikla hit a pair of home runs, Matt Greener added a grand slam and Adam Sprague tossed 7.2 innings, allowing just an earned run before exiting the game, as second-ranked Cumberland advanced to the championship game of the 54th Annual Avista-NAIA World Series with a 13-7 triumph over 17th-ranked Point Loma Nazarene Thursday at Harris Field.
With the victory Cumberland (57-9) will play in the championship game Thursday at 9 p.m. CT against the winner of the Lee University-Embry-Riddle contest that was to follow the Bulldogs. CU is the only undefeated team remaining in the tournament and must be beat twice. Cumberland needs one more win to claim its second national title. The Bulldogs won five straight games to claim the 2004 World series title.
Kikla hit a two-run homer in the first and added a solo shot in the third. Kris Miller followed two batters later with a two-run shot in the third, staking Sprague to an early 5-1 advantage.
Sprague (8-2) scattered 11 hits and allowed four runs, one earned, in 7.2 innings before exiting after tossing 130 pitches. He walked two and struck out five, redeeming himself after lasting just two-thirds of an inning two days ago in a start versus Lee University. The lefthander induced 20 ground balls, 10 for outs, before running out of gas in the eighth.
Greg Appleton had three hits and scored twice for the Bulldogs, while Greener collected two hits, the grand slam in the sixth and a two-run single in the seventh. Max Kautz also registered two hits and scored twice.
Point Loma starter Brandon Dixon (10-2) allowed six runs on seven hits in 3.1 innings, walking two and striking out three, taking his second loss of the World Series.
The Sea Lions (41-20-1) posted 15 hits, three from Alex Cameron and two each by Rashad Taylor, Steven Winnick and Jeff Diamond.
The Bulldogs got off to another good start, with Appleton singling to leadoff the bottom of the first before Kikla hit the first pitch from Dixon just over the wall in left, his 19th of the season, for a quick 2-0 CU advantage. Cumberland has scored 10 first-inning runs over the last three games with the aid of five home runs.
Sprague pitched out of a jam in the first after Cameron singled and Tyler Kuehl’s grounder was mishandled at second base by T.J. Murphy. Jeff Fox walked with two outs, loading the bases, but Wes Kartch struck out to end the threat.
The Sea Lions got on the board in the third, starting with a leadoff single from Allen Boyer. He moved to second on a groundout by Cameron and scored on Kuehl’s double down the leftfield line. Taylor followed with an infield single off the foot of Sprague, but Fox bounced into a 1-4-3 doubleplay to end the inning.
The Bulldogs used the longball very effectively in the third inning again, with Kikla hitting a towering homer to leftcenter that just cleared the wall. Greener walked before Miller laced a two-run shot to deep leftcenter, his nation-leading 27th of the year, giving the Bulldogs a 5-1 lead.
Point Loma threatened again in the fourth with one-out singles from Winnick and Diamond, but again Sprague induced a groundball back to him, and the lefthander started the very unusual 1-5-3 doubleplay to end the inning.
The bottom of the Bulldog lineup got on base once again to start the bottom of the frame, with Kautz hitting a one-out double to right. Murphy walked and Dave Weyer put down a perfect bunt single down the third base line, loading the bases. Appleton singled home a run for a 6-1 CU advantage, chasing Dixon from the contest.
The Sea Lions put three runs on the board in the sixth to cut into the deficit.
Kartch chopped a single into right to leadoff and Winnick reached on catcher’s interference, as the Bulldogs had a pitch-out called and Winnick swung on the hit-and-run. Diamond then executed the hit-and-run to perfection, plating a run and putting runners on the corners.
Pinch-hitter Alec Martinez singled up the middle, but Murphy knocked the ball down. His throw to first got away from Appleton, allowing Diamond to move to third. Boyer’s sacrifice fly to leftcenter scored another run, cutting the Bulldog lead to 6-4.
But Cumberland took advantage of a pair of miscues by PLNU in the bottom of the inning to get the runs back.
Weyer reached on an error by the shortstop Cameron and Appleton walked. Another ground ball off the bat of Kikla was booted by Cameron, loading the bases for Greener, who blasted the first pitch well over the wall in leftcenter for a grand slam, his 27th homer of the year, giving the Bulldogs a 10-4 edge.
Cumberland added to its lead in the seventh after a beautiful bunt single by Kautz, who stole second and moved to third on a throwing error by the catcher. Pinch-hitter Brian Karahalios chopped an RBI single over a drawn-in infield.
Appleton singled with two outs and Kikla was hit, loading the bases for Greener again, who drove in a pair with a single to center, giving the Bulldogs a 13-4 lead.
Point Loma scored twice in the eighth, with Winnick and Drew Bernhard both singling before a walk to Boyer loaded the bases. Sprague exited the contest for Keith Kirby, who allowed a two-run single through the rightside from Cameron.
In the ninth Taylor singled to leadoff and Ian MacMaster also singled, putting runners on the corners. Kartch hit a sacrifice fly to right, but Kirby induced a 6-4-3 doubleplay to end the contest.