LEBANON, Tenn. – Cumberland will play Brewton-Parker in the NAIA Championship Opening Round on Monday in Kingsport, Tenn., the NAIA announced Friday night. The Bulldogs join Missouri Baptist, Bryan College and Culver-Stockton in the five-team bracket that continues through Thursday, with the winner of each Opening Round advancing to the 58th Annual Avista-NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho.
Cumberland will appear in the NAIA Championship Opening Round for the fifth time in six years since the format was adopted before the 2009 season. The Bulldogs were 1-2 in Hattiesburg, Miss., in 2009, won all three games in Joliet, Ill., in 2010 on their way to a national championship, posted a 3-2 mark in Paducah, Ky., in 2011, and went 2-2 last season in Joliet again. Cumberland is 9-6 all-time in the Opening Round.
Cumberland has played Missouri Baptist and Bryan College this season already, defeating MBU, 5-4, in CU’s third game of the season on February 8 in Montgomery, Ala., and won a 12-7 decision at home against Bryan College just nine days ago. The Bulldogs played Brewton-Parker in three-game series in 2011 and 2012, winning 4-of-6 games from the Barons.
CU is ranked 23rd in the final regular season NAIA Baseball Coaches’ Top 25 Poll, the national office announced Friday. The Bulldogs were No. 10 in the Preseason Coaches’ Poll but had not appeared in any of the eight previous regular season rankings.
Cumberland has won 17 of its last 21 games overall since the beginning of April and did not lose a conference series over the final six weeks of the season.
The Bulldogs are 7-8 against teams currently ranked in the Top 25, including one victory each against No. 3 Oklahoma Wesleyan, No. 7 Missouri Baptist and No. 15 Embry-Riddle and four wins versus fifth-ranked Georgetown College. CU also lost both games to sixth-ranked Georgia Gwinnett (8-5, 5-3), the only meeting with No. 4 Faulkner University (7-4) and 3-of-4 contests against Embry-Riddle (6-3, 9-4, 2-0; won 4-0), blowing late-inning leads in two of the three losses.
Cumberland defeated Georgetown twice during the Mid-South Conference Championships to win the program’s 12th conference tournament title in 18 tries, earning the conference’s second automatic berth into the Opening Round. The Bulldogs gave the Tigers four of their eight defeats this season, winning 2-of-3 in the opening conference series, February 28 and March 1.