Huntley graduate Craig Lipp and Westminster Christian graduate Ryan Perez pitched a combined 7-hitter to lead the Judson University baseball team to a 7-4 win over No. 2 Cumberland (Tenn.) in the first game of the NAIA Championship Opening Round at Silver Cross Field in Joliet Thursday.
No. 3 Judson (45-14), which has won 18 straight, will meet No. 1 York, Neb. (41-10) in Joliet on Friday at 2 p.m.
The Eagles took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning when Jacobs graduate Johnny Amann drove in Nick Norris with a sacrifice fly. They never trailed again.
Perez, a freshman, relieved Lipp with runners at first and second with one out in the sixth inning. He protected the 1-run lead by inducing a 4-6-3 double play to end the threat.
"Craig Lipp threw well but got his pitch count up early," Judson coach Rich Benjamin said. "He was over 100 in the sixth, so we needed to go get him and Ryan came in, worked us out of a jam and took the game all the way through to the ninth."
Lipp (9-2) held Cumberland (39-18-1) to 2 runs (1 earned) on 6 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 4 in 5 innings. Perez notched the save by allowing 2 runs (1 earned) on just 1 hit in 3 innings. Perez struck out 3 and walked a pair.
Amann, who went 2-for-3 with a double and 2 RBI, scored from first base in the seventh inning on a Cumberland throwing error, giving Judson a 4-2 lead.
The Eagles added 3 important insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth, keyed by Prairie Ridge graduate T.J. Swank's pinch-hit, 2-run home run.
"Typically in a postseason game you're not going to get a lot of success early," Benjamin said. "It's the second and third at-bats after you've gathered some information that you might have a chance to break through."
Perez allowed a 2-run homer in the top of the ninth but came back to notch his team-best 76th strikeout, fanning Cumberland's No. 3 hitter to end the game.