Vaught's Views: Hunt has his title

June 08, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

He had already won over 900 games, had a stadium named after him and taken six teams to the NAIA World Series.

But Boyle County native Woody Hunt had never won a national championship - until last week. Hunt finally got that elusive World Series championship when Cumberland (Tenn.) University beat top-ranked Oklahoma City in the title game in Lewiston, Idaho.

"I knew we had a good team. I thought we could win it, but that's what anybody who gets there thinks, or hopes," said Hunt. "We got very hot in our conference tournament and it continued. We played almost ideal baseball. We got good hitting and pitching. We scored a lot with two outs. We overcame a lot of adversity."

That's why Cumberland (59-21) won 15 straight postseason games. Cumberland scored at least nine runs in every World Series game and averaged almost 12 runs per game. Those are big numbers for a team that had 21 losses entering postseason play.


"We played a very challenging schedule," Hunt said. "We played about 30 games in March, which is hard on any college team. We lost two starters to injuries. Finally at the end, we got it all back together and played very well."

Hunt's teams usually have done that at Cumberland. He's been head coach there 20 years and has a 936-391-3 record. Twice his team finished third in the World Series. Another time it was second.

"We've been there before and knew what to expect. I understand more now about how to get a team ready to play in the tournament," Hunt, 53, said.

Oklahoma City had five players taken in the draft

Still, Hunt's team was not the favorite in the 10-team double elimination tournament. That was Oklahoma City, which finished the year 73-7 and had five players taken in Monday's baseball draft. Cumberland did not have a player picked.

"We beat a pitcher that was 16-0 and had lost only one time in two years," Hunt said. "It just took a monumental effort on our part.

"We will have a lot coming back next year. We have to get some more pitching, and I think we have. We feel good about next year's team, but you just never know. Everything still has to work just right."

Hunt has three sisters living in this area. He's also friends with several area residents and gets back home occasionally. He did call Bob Gorley, the assistant coach at Boyle when Hunt played there, after his team won. He hopes to talk with Dick Parsons, his baseball coach at Boyle, in the next few days to let him also know that his team won a national title.

"I called him the last time I was home when I read he was coaching middle school basketball in Mercer County," Hunt said. "I really think a lot of him and coach Gorley. They did a lot for me."

He does have one regret. His mother passed away in November, 16 months after his father died.

"I wish they were here to enjoy this with me," Hunt said via telephone from Lebanon, Tenn. "But I have a feeling they are still watching over me."

City held a parade for the team

Others are, too. The Cumberland baseball team received a police escort when it returned home with the national championship. The city held a parade to honor the team Monday and the school had a victory ceremony.

"It's been pretty overwhelming. This is a big deal for us," Hunt said.

Bigger than win No. 1,000 will be when it comes, probably in 2006?

"It is a milestone for any coach to reach 1,000 wins, but there's no question the national championship is bigger," Hunt said. "One thousand wins is not that big a deal. The championship is the high point, no doubt about that. I've just been very fortunate that they have let me work here so long."

Actually, it's Cumberland that has been fortunate to have Hunt - something the school obviously recognized when it named the stadium after him years ago - and now he should finally know he can work there as long as he wants.

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