By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Cumberland came in like a lion. Bluefield College went out like a (Mc)Lamb.
“This was big, this was a very emotional game, this was huge,” Bluefield junior Sawyer McLamb said. “We had to work hard for that one.”
No one enjoyed the final result more than McLamb.
“He had a tough day, but he came back and came up big for us,” Bluefield College junior Tyler Timmer said.
Real tough, but real big.
McLamb atoned for four errors in the field with a single to center field to score Jacob Wright in the bottom of the 12th inning, and the Rams opened its final home series of the season with a thrilling 5-4 Mid-South Conference win at Bowen Field over the Bulldogs, one of the top programs in NAIA baseball.
“If you are a college baseball fan, you have to be excited about what happened out here tonight,” Bluefield head coach Mike White said. “It was a great college baseball game, back and forth, you had a little bit of everything.
“They are one of the hallmark programs in NAIA. Coach (Woody) Hunt and the things he has been able to accomplish there, it is a good win for us.”
Bluefield (30-12, 11-1) will try to carry momentum into a doubleheader with the Bulldogs (30-17, 12-9) today at 1 p.m.
“It is fun to beat teams 18-0 and 10-2, but when you win like this,” Wright said, “there is something special about it.”
It was Timmer who tied the score at 4-4 in the seventh with a two-run home run over the left field fence against All-America pitcher Anthony Gomez, and then tied it in the 12th with a solo shot off Austin Williams to nearly the same spot.
“He was throwing strikes and I was seeing it well,” Timmer said. “He came up in the zone three times in a row. The first time I took a pretty good swing and took it out and the second one he got up 0-1 and I thought he would come back fastball and he did. He left it up and I put it out.”
Wright was able to reach on a single with two outs in the 12th, and moved to second when Dan Copeland drew a walk. Up came McLamb, and no one was focused more on success.
“At that point I was just trying to keep my mind clear, don’t let the world spin too fast, keep your hands to the baseball and drive it,” McLamb said. “I don’t try to do too much with it, I am a little guy, just get the ball in play.”
He bounced a pitch into center field, and Wright never stopped.
“Everybody is going to have a rough night every now and then,” Wright said. “Tonight was his night, I was waiting for him to hit the ball and that is what he did, I took off running. Two outs, ball on the ground, I am leaving, I am trying to score, that is my job.”
Bluefield dashed onto the field to celebrate the victory against Cumberland, an NAIA powerhouse, which has won 1,432 games in 33 seasons under Hunt, including national championships in 2004 and 2010.
“That is what I told our guys tonight,” White said. “We are going to get a chance to compete against one of the marquee programs in the NAIA and we want to come out and play hard.
“We got out and they hit us hard with four runs early and one of the things our guys have done all year is stay the course, keep playing and good things happened for us tonight.”
Cumberland jumped on starter Zac Russell-Myers with three runs in the first, with Sam Lind drilling a three-run homer over the right field fence for the 3-0 lead. Among the runners who scored was Chris Hall, who reached on the first of four errors on McLamb.
“It felt like everything that could go wrong for me tonight went wrong,” McLamb said. “I had to fight through it, Coach had to get in my head a little bit, tell me to get my head off my butt so that is what I had to do.”
Cumberland, which had five different players with two hits each, added a fourth run in the second on another McLamb miscue in the field.
“I had a real tough start, four errors in the game is tough,” McLamb said. “Coming back I was just trying to keep my hands to the baseball the whole time, but it ain’t me, it is everybody over here.
“They were the ones keeping us in it when I was struggling, I give all the love to them, all the respect to them and to Jesus Christ.”
While Russell-Myers held the Bulldogs scoreless through the ninth, the Rams whittled into the lead against Gomez, led by Kahlin Villines, who doubled in the third and scored on a single by Tyler Lundgren.
Another run crossed in the fifth when Tyler Rome doubled, moved to third on an error and scored on a sacrifice fly by Villines, who joined Jakob Schober with three hits apiece for the Rams.
Bluefield was able to tie the score in the seventh when Villines doubled and Timmer stroked a two-out home run to left field.
“It means a lot,” Timmer said. “I am just trying to help this team win and that is what we did tonight, we got a big win.”
Cumberland was able to reach Ryan Shockey for a run in the 12th when Justin Byrd singled, stole second and scored when Richie Seaton hit a shot near second base that hit off the glove of McLamb to put the Bulldogs in the lead.
Still, the Rams weren’t ready to concede.
“That is the best thing about this team,” Wright said. “I never been with a group of guys that battle back as good as these guys do. That is a rare find in baseball and I am lucky to be a part of it.”
Timmer tied the score with a one-out home run, and with Wright standing near second base, McLamb singled the center. Call him a hero.
“He has been the same spot this year offensively and wasn’t successful the first time earlier in the year,” White said. “He calmed himself down, and it is great to see him come out and be able to put that stuff behind him and concentrate on one pitch, one at-bat.
“The baseball gods have a funny way of shining on you.”
—Contact Brian Woodson at bwoodson@bdtonline
at Bowen Field
Cumberland.....310 000 000 001 — 5 13 1
Bluefield...........001 010 200 002 — 6 16 4
Anthony Gomez, Austin Williams (10) and Tyler Alford. Zac Russell-Myers, Ryan Shockey (10) and Tyler Lundgren. W—Shockey (8-2); L—Williams (0-2). HR—Sam Lind (C) 1st, 2 on; Tyler Timmer 2 (B) 7th, 1 on, 12th, 0 on.