Advertisement

GAME 9: Fire ignite for bounce-back win

May 28—The vaunted depth of the Southeastern pitching staff came into play on Monday at Harris Field as Jake Cohen earned the save, quelling a mid-game rally from Cumberlands en route to a 12-5 elimination game win for the top-seeded Fire to kick off Memorial Day action in the NAIA World Series.

The showing represented a critical bounce-back for Florida-based Southeastern (52-7), which had suffered a painful extra-innings defeat to Arizona Christian in its Series opener. For the Patriots (52-8), it represented a season-ending second loss of the tournament.

"Just happy to get in the win column," said Southeastern coach Adrian Dinkel, whose team will next face Georgia Gwinnett/Tennessee Wesleyan at 3:05 this afternoon in an elimination contest. "I think we caught some breaks in that situation, the same way in that first game the other team caught some breaks. That's just the way baseball goes."

Southeastern stranglehold broken

What began as a defensive contest exploded into a slugfest around the midway point. Behind the arm of starting pitcher Robb Adams (who would ultimately record his 30th career win), Southeastern held Cumberlands scoreless through the first four innings while steadily adding one run to its own ledger in the bottom of each frame.

The first stirrings of a Patriot comeback appeared in the top of the fifth when Johnboy Rittenhouse connected for a near-homer that bounced off the center-field fence and proved good for a double. Rittenhouse would later make his way home on a sacrifice fly from Ben Snapp for the first Cumberlands run of the game.

Southeastern responded in the bottom of the inning: Alfonso Villalobos launched his own deep blast that clattered off the green wall in center as a Cumberlands outfielder clutched at it in vain, settling for a double. The Fire put up three runs to extend their lead to a commanding 7-1 before the Patriots stopped the bleeding.

Cumberlands would up the ante again in the top of the sixth. Junior catcher Charlie Muniz — the Patriots' all-time home run leader — came up with a shot that dipped just over the left-field fence, tying him for third in NAIA history in single-season homers with 36. The ensuing stretch of offensive production was bookended by Snapp, who replicated the feat with another homer to almost exactly the same spot. Jaren Warwick took over on the mound but failed to stem the Patriot tide; their hitting streak had them very much back in contention as they closed the gap to 7-5, and this time the Fire had no answer in the bottom of the inning.

Turning up the heat late

Cohen, a junior right-hander hailing from New Orleans, proved to have what Southeastern needed — and what he needed for his first save of the season. He took the mound in the top of the seventh and held Cumberlands scoreless the rest of the way, going three-up, three-down in the top of the ninth to close things out.

"It felt great," said Cohen, who notched two strikeouts and conceded only one successful base hit for the game. "I just came in there and threw strikes. I knew that I had everybody behind me making plays. I know that I can trust them to get everything that gets in there."

Meanwhile, the Fire found their biggest inning of the day with a five-run bottom of the eighth, sparked by a Tommy Davis double down the third base line. Davis finished the game 3-for-4 with two doubles, and acrobatically dodged a line drive that came streaking his way between second and third en route to providing one of Southeastern's eighth-inning scores. A two-RBI single from Chayce Bryant gave the Fire their last runs of the day.

CUMBERLANDS SOUTHEASTERN

ab r h bi ab r h bi

Thmpsn lf 5 0 0 0 Munoz 2b 4 2 1 0

Muniz c 4 1 2 1 Villalobs 3b 5 2 2 2

Flynn pr 0 0 0 0 Nunez ss 2 3 0 0

St. Clair cf 3 1 0 0 Lora 1b 4 0 2 2

Harper 1b 4 0 1 0 Pigozzo cf 4 1 1 1

Ritnhous dh 3 2 1 0 Bryant dh 5 0 1 3

AGonzalz ss 4 0 1 1 Wilkrson rf 5 1 2 1

Snapp 2b 3 1 1 3 Davis lf 4 2 3 0

Prokes rf 4 0 0 0 LGonzalez 2 0 1 2

Petrey 3b 4 0 2 0 Mondrgn pr 0 1 0 0

Totals 34 5 8 5 Totals 35 12 11 4

Cumberlands 000 014 000— 5 8 0

Southeastern 111 130 050x—12 13 0

Cumberland ip h r er bb so

Hamson (L,6-1) 4.0 7 5 5 2 6

Sprong 1.0 2 2 2 1 1

Morgan 2.1 1 1 1 0 0

Korbacher 0.2 3 4 4 1 0

Totals 8.0 13 12 12 4 7

Southeastern ip h r er bb so

Adams (W,9-2) 5.1 5 4 4 2 5

Warwick 0.2 2 1 1 0 1

Cohen (S,1) 3.0 1 0 0 0 2

Totals

Attendance — 929.

Southeastern 12, Cumberlands 5

PLAYERS OF THE GAME

Starting Southeastern pitcher Robb Adams earned his 30th career win, while reliever Jake Cohen claimed his first save of the season. Tommy Davis batted 3-for-4 with two RBI for the victorious Fire.

For Cumberlands, powerhouse Charlie Muniz had two hits including a home run.

QUOTE OF NOTE

"I'm happy with the way they competed. We had a game plan, we stuck to it, and obviously, good to end up on top." — Southeastern coach Adrian Dinkel.