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MCKENZIE, Tenn. -- The Bethel Wildcats played host to the Cumberland University Phoenix in the first round of the 2021 Mid-South Conference Baseball Tournament Friday. The Wildcats used …
MCKENZIE, Tenn. -- The Bethel Wildcats played host to the Cumberland University Phoenix in the first round of the 2021 Mid-South Conference Baseball Tournament Friday. The Wildcats used timely hitting, the long ball and clutch pitching to sweep the Phoenix. The Cats won 5-4 and 6-5.
Bethel entered the post-season as a five seed while Cumberland University was the eighth seed.
In game one, Cumberland jumped out to a 3-0 lead scoring three runs in the first. The big blow was a three-run homer by Jose Vera. Bethel scored a run in the bottom of the first when Nick Proto drove in a run on a fielder’s choice. The Cats tied the game in the fourth after solo back- to back home runs by Proto and Noah Hawkins. The Wildcats took a 4-3 lead on an RBI single from Jack Surber. Pablo Custodio homered in the seventh to tie the game at 4-4. With the bases loaded in the eighth, the Wildcats took a 5-4 lead on a passed ball. Giovannie Nieves shut down the Phoenix bats and picked up the win. Hooper Mills was charged with the loss.
The Wildcats scored four runs in the first inning to take the early lead in game two. Bethel picked up a run on a bases-loaded wild pitch. Ruber Medina sent the crowd into a frenzy later in the inning with a three-run blast. The Phoenix scored a single run in the fourth as a result of a Wildcat error. Back-to-back doubles by CU’s Joey Fregosi and Adam Gazouski pushed the Phoenix out to a 5-4 lead in the sixth. Bethel’s Surber hit a dramatic two out two run homer to give the Wildcats a 6-5 lead. Antonio Costas was the winner with Nieves picked up his ninth save striking out four hitters in 1.1 innings.
Bethel improved to 20-17 while CU finished their season at 22-24. The losses ended the career of Woody Hunt, the legendary Hall-of-Fame coach of the Phoenix for 41 years. Coach Hunt won over 1,600 games in his storied career.
Coach Rusty Thompson was happy with the sweep. “I’m really proud of how our guys battled today. We had some clutch efforts today from the mound and from the plate. We are excited about our opportunity in moving on and look forward to competing in the final six.”
The Cumberland Patriots (40-6, 16-4 in the MSC) earned the lone bye into the six-team double-elimination tournament which begins Thursday, May 6, at Bowling Green Ballpark.
The tournament will be reseeded for the final site once the six teams have been determined.
The double-elimination tournament begins on Thursday, May 6 with the championship game slated for Sunday, May 9.
The two teams that reach the championship game will earn the Mid-South Conference’s two automatic bids into the NAIA National Tournament field.