Kaiti White, Cumberlands Patriots headed to team’s first-ever NAIA World Series
Kaiti White. (Cumberlands Patriots photo)
The resiliency of the Cumberlands Patriots softball team was on display once again this season. UC was down 1-0 in the seventh inning with two strikes on the batter twice before tying it up. The team then came through in the 10th inning to win 4-1, advancing them to the NAIA World Series for the first time in program history.
Cumberlands defeated three-seeded Madonna, to claim the Williamsburg Opening Round Title.
While the offense may have struggled to get a run until the seventh it was the pitching duo of Talli Burgess and (Fairfield Lady Lions alum and Hillsboro resident) Kaiti White that kept the Crusaders at bay and keeping UC in the game.
Burgess got the start, going 3.1 innings, giving up six hits that resulted in one run, while striking out a pair. White entered the game in the fourth and went 6.2 innings, limiting Madonna to just one hit, while striking out three hitters.
Cumberlands outhit the Crusaders 10-7, with both Mackenzie Pawlak and Carly Oliver tallying three hits in the game. Pawlak drove in the winning runs in the tenth off a two-RBI double. Oliver was the game tying run, scoring off a base hit from Maddie Sickau after Oliver roped a double into the gap. Both Sickau and Wood had two hits and one RBI to their name.
With the way the Opening Round is structured, despite coming from the winner's bracket as the only undefeated team left, UC was the visitors in the game. Oliver led the game off with a flare hit to right and was moved to second off a sac bunt from Sickau but she was left stranded.
Then Burgess in the bottom of the first got the first batter looking on strikes to start a three up, three down frame.
Both Pawlak and Wood got singles in the second, but again UC stranded runners, in total the Pats left 10 runners on base and got runners on in all but two innings.
Despite the runs not coming for Cumberlands, the defense showed up big. The Crusaders had a runner on second with one out in the third. Then one of their hitters got a single up the middle and Madonna sent the runner from second home. Wood came up firing, sending a laser to Meryn Livingston at the plate, which gunned down the runner and kept it 0-0.
Madonna got their one run in the game in the fourth inning off three hits. This brought White into the game with one out and runners on the corners. She sent the first batter she saw down on strikes and then issued a lineout to Emily Bryant at third to leave it a 1-0 game.
White kept Madonna off balance for the rest of the game, only allowing one more base runner on from a single to left. With the runner on second, White struck out the batter for the final out and turned it over to the offense for their last chance to tie the game in the seventh.
The first two batters for Cumberlands went down and in stepped Oliver. She found herself in a 1-2 count and then roped the ball down the left field line for the double. Next up was Sickau who went into 0-2 count off a called strike and a check swing foul ball. The next pitch she swung at and put the ball up the middle. This allowed Oliver to score easily and make it a 1-1 game.
White sent the next nine batters down in order with eight of them as groundouts. During that time UC got two runners on, but could not push a run across.
In the top of the 10th, on two outs Bryant was up at the plate on a 1-2 count, and she chopped the ball through the left side for the base hit. Bailey Turnbow followed suit with a hard hit ball at the shortstop that got through to have a pair of runners on. Pawlak who had the hot bat all tournament long was the next hitter. She battled through eight pitches in an 0-2 count and finally laced the ball down the left field line. It drove in both Bryant and Turnbow and put Pawlak at third base. The bats kept rolling for the Pats with Wood sending the ball through the 5-6 hole scoring Pawlak for the 4-1 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, a groundout to White and a strikeout took care of the first two outs. Then a grounder to Oliver that she threw over to Turnbow at first sealed the win and UC 's berth to the NAIA World Series.
Over the course of the three games in the Opening Round, UC had two extra inning games, having to make comebacks in both. Pawlak led the team in hits with eight and a team best three RBI. Bryant led the team in homers with two which gave her two RBI in the tournament, while Paxton Hoop also had two RBI.
The pitching trio of White, Burgess and Morgan Radford combined for an ERA of 1.40, striking out 14 batters and giving up just five runs.
The World Series is played in Columbus, Ga. from May 15-31.
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