Woody has done it again.
He deflects all credit to his Cumberland University players and assistants, but Woody Hunt is the constant factor for a baseball program he built from scratch.
Hunt’s Bulldogs added another NAIA Championship trophy last weekend, shutting out Lewis-Clark in the title game, 3-0.
It marked the third time this decade that Hunt’s teams have been crowned NAIA’s last team standing. The first came in 2004. They repeated in 1010 and this season.
If Hunt continues at this pace, Cumberland University President Dr. Harvill C. Eaton will have to enlarge the school’s trophy case.
“We came a long way this year,’’ Hunt said in a postgame interview. “Three weeks ago we didn’t know we’d be in the tournament. We just kept grinding it out.’’
Hunt declined to name his favorite national championship team. He said they all were sweet. “This was the most hard-earned,’’ he conceded.
They entered the national tournament as the final seed. The No. 10 seed just kept plugging away, eliminating teams one at a time. Even the final game was a grinder.
Lewis-Clark out-hit the Bulldogs, 6-5. Both teams made three errors and both teams left 11 runners on base. It was anyone’s game for the taking. Behind pitcher Anthony Gomez’s gem, it was Cumberland that came away with the hardware.
I love coaches like Woody Hunt. He is one of several similar coaches that have made college baseball in the Mid-state area relevant. Tim Corbin has his Vanderbilt team in the NCAA Regionals once again. MTSU had a solid team for years under Steve Peterson. Lipscomb made the Atlantic Sun Tournament’s Championship game under Jeff Forehand.
All of these men share a devout passion for the game. They all struggle to make a national splash with scholarship limitations. Hunt has 10 scholarships for 40 players. Talk about cutting small pieces out of a pie, Hunt makes it work.
Their teams have to be all in to be successful. Corbin has him team practice outdoors in the winter. You’ll see them on the field when the Commodore basketball team is playing games in Memorial Gym.
Hunt sets the tone for the labor of love. He and players past and present, helped build Ernest L. Stockton field, the dugouts, a press box, and the present players maintain the facilities.
Hunt realizes the school’s limitations when it comes to building facilities comparable to major college programs. They get financial help from the Lebanon and surrounding cities. Former players chip in when they can. They have something they can be proud of for years to come.
Hunt is only one of six coaches in history to log 1,000 career victories in the NAIA. They have been to the NAIA World Series 12 times, including six of the past 10 seasons.
Nearly 80 of Hunt’s players have signed professional contracts. His teams have won 40 or more victories, including 19 of the last 21 years.
Despite all the accolades and numerous Coach of the Year honors, you don’t hear Woody Hunt take credit or beat his chest. You never will. He’s all about baseball and making players better on and off the field. He has been there 33 years. The Nashville Sports Council gave him its Fred Russell Lifetime Achievement Award last year. He’s an incurable ball coach, whose players love to play for.
Cumberland is fortunate.
Woody Hunt isn’t going anywhere to see if the outfield grass is greener.
Contact Wilson Post Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.