Cumberland exploded for four runs in the sixth inning to break open a 2-1 game, and held on, working out of a bases loaded jam in the seventh to win the Mid-South Conference Championships opening round, 6-4, over the University of Rio Grande on Thursday at Millennium Park.
Recently-named Mid-South Conference Player of the Year Jessica Roper went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored in the contest. Senior Emily Nicholson and freshman Tessa Tomaselli each added 2-for-4 days.
Senior starting pitcher Courtney Maynard (20-9) earned the victory, shutting down the RedStorm for the first six innings. After a rocky seventh, the Lancaster, Tenn., native allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits while also striking out six.
It was Roper who began a two-out rally in the first to put the Bulldogs on the board. The Bellflower, Calif., native smashed a hard liner down the left field line and cruised into second with a double.
Nicholson followed with a hard shot that skipped off the glove of the Rio Grande shortstop for an error which allowed Roper scamper home and give CU a 1-0 advantage.
Rio Grande went down in order in the opening inning but answered with a run in the bottom of the second. Jenna Jones led off the inning with a double, moved to third on a passed ball and scored on a groundout to tie things at one.
Cumberland loaded the bases with three straight singles in the third from Roper, Nicholson and Broderick, and freshman Tessa Tomaselli delivered a sacrifice fly to center field and Roper scored for the second time in the game and put the Bulldogs back ahead, 2-1.
The Bulldogs and RedStorm traded scoreless innings in both the fourth and the fifth, before CU broke things open with four runs in the top of the sixth. After a leadoff single from Tomaselli, Rio Grande worked a pair of outs and seemed on the way out of the jam.
A pair of wild pitches put Tomaselli on third and a walk to pinch hitter Crystal Bryant made it runners on the corners. Senior Devon Jamerson picked a perfect time to get her first hit of the game, delivering a two-RBI double to the right-center gap.
Senior Shawnee Kirk and Roper each backed that up with RBI singles of their own, scoring Jamerson and Kirk, who moved to second on a throw after her single. When the dust settled, Cumberland led the contest, 6-1.
Rio Grande responded with a run in the bottom of the frame from a Cheyenne Hamaker, but Maynard worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the frame, earning a strikeout to put the inning to bed.
The RedStorm again made noise in the seventh inning, loading the bases and scoring a pair before an out was recorded to chase Maynard. Senior Jessica Lozano was called upon to close out the contest. With runners on first and second, the Wilmington, Calif., native worked a flyout.
On the final play of the game, Lozano drew another fly ball to center field. Inexplicably, the runner on second base took off for home. Junior Katelynn Stoll made the catch and threw on to Jamerson at second to put an end to the contest.
Cumberland now faces the tough challenge of taking on top-seeded and nationally-ranked No. 9 Lindsey Wilson with a chance to advance to the winner’s bracket final. The contest is set for a 10 a.m. Eastern Time start.