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Saturday Morning Quarterback
May 01, 2007 12:00 am
I was running a little late to Friday's Trevecca-Cumberland game at Woody Hunt Stadium.
Anticipating a good game between the top two teams in the TranSouth Conference, both ranked in the NAIA top 20, I was shocked when I saw four Trevecca runs on the first-inning scoreboard. Before I reached the South Tarver Street intersection, it was five and Trevecca still had baserunners. By the time I got parked and made my way to the field, the Trojans had six runs and were still batting.
Seems I wasn't the only one late for the party.
And as it turned out, the Cumberland team with seven wins over teams currently in the top 25 never did show up and it was the Trojans who ended up celebrating on the Stockton Field mound after putting the Bulldogs on a 14-0 leash to take the TSC title.
Trevecca held an identical mound party two years ago after taking the title on the same field. Cumberland bounced back by going through the loser's bracket to reach the TSC tournament final, where the Bulldogs lost again to the Trojans. But the Dawgs did qualify for the Region XI tournament at Veterans Field and won that on their way back to the NAIA World Series.
Four years ago, Freed-Hardeman came to Hunt Stadium on the final weekend of the regular season and dominated Cumberland 8-5 in the Friday opener of a three-game TranSouth series.
The game wasn't as close as the score.
Because a former Lebanon High player named Justin Forrest was Freed-Hardeman's main gun that day [going 4-for-4 with two home runs], we played him up big in the next day's Democrat, putting his picture on Page 1 and on the sports page.
Six weeks later, I learned from pitcher Jake Gray, another former Lebanon High player, Hunt used that Saturday edition as fuel to fire up the Bulldogs. It worked as Cumberland won the next 19 games all the way to the national championship.
Turn the calendar forward to two weeks ago and a Friday the 13th which proved very unfortunate to the Bulldogs.
Mid-Continent, a team with less than 10 wins, beat the nationally-ranked Bulldogs 7-6. Cumberland fell behind with some tomfoolery in the outfield. Then, the Bulldogs loaded the bases with no one out and the Nos. 3 and 4 hitters coming up. But no runs scored and the Dawgs were doomed.
Like the aftermath of that Freed game, Hunt's tone of voice was very discouraging.
But the Bulldogs responded much like the '04 team did, with seven straight wins going into Friday's Trevecca game, the opener of a three-game season-ending series.
Cumberland swept Freed on Saturday to finish third in the standings before sweeping the conference tournament, the Region XI and Super Region tournaments and the NAIA World Series. This year, the Bulldogs, who dropped to third place that fateful day, entered yesterday's game with a chance of winning the championship provided they sweep the No. 7 Trojans in the three-game series. Of course, Trevecca's Nick Shoup ended CU's title hopes with a one-hit, run-rule shutout.
There's another similarity between '04 and '07. The Bulldogs, plagued by inconsistency, bottomed out in the NAIA poll in both Aprils with one vote before bouncing back.
Obviously, it's waaaaay too soon to tell if the '07 Dawgs will do what their predecessors accomplished. But evidence shows they are capable. They have two wins over No. 4 Oklahoma City [which was 43-9 at the start of this week], one over No. 8 Tennessee Wesleyan [36-12], one over No. 10 Bellevue [35-13], one over No. 12 Lee [42-10] and two wins and a tie against No. 23 Indiana Tech. Counting yesterday's loss to Trevecca, the No. 18 Bulldogs have four defeats against those teams.
They can beat anybody in the country on a given day. But they can lose to anybody as well.
Cumberland has historically bounced back from what appeared to be devastating defeats. Question is, will this pack of Dawgs use yesterday's loss as a trampoline or a trap door?
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 17 or by e-mail at email@example.com.