CARY, N.C. — When Sam Broderson had two strikes on Scott Wolverton in the top of the ninth inning of Saturday’s Division-II National Championship game, Cameron Carraway waited on the top step of the dugout with “no doubt” in his mind what would happen next.
Following the ensuing pitch, a national title-clinching strikeout, Carraway sprinted onto the field and was the first to dogpile Broderson and catcher Logan McNeely on the infield grass of the USA Baseball National Training Complex.
The celebration marked a historical moment for the Wingate University baseball team, as the Bulldogs won their first Division-II National Championship in program history, upsetting No. 1 University of Central Missouri.
Carraway, a 2019 graduate from Richmond Senior High School, and No. 6 Wingate completed their Cinderella run by winning their fifth game in as many days, defeating the top-ranked Mules 5-3.
Carraway started the game in right field, which he said is customary when pitcher Hunter Dula starts on the mound. He was pinch hit for in the seventh, where he then fulfilled his role as a teammate.
“My job was done, so at that point I wanted to be the best teammate possible,” Carraway said. “I was up on the dugout fence near the stairway and I just knew there was no doubt we were going to win.
“Sam is one of the biggest competitors on the team and there’s a grit and confidence about him that surges through the whole team,” he added. “I just remember seeing the umpire ring the kid up and I stormed onto the field as fast as I could. From there it was all a blur.”
The Bulldogs became the first team since Florida Southern College in 2005 to win the D-II College World Series after dropping their opening-round game.
Wingate fell 6-2 to No. 3 Angelo State University (Texas) to open the CWS on June 6, but earned a pair of one-run victories over the Rams on June 10 and 11.
While facing elimination, Wingate also defeated No. 7 Southern New Hampshire University, and then upset No. 2 Seton Hill University (Pa.) to advance to the two games against Angelo State.
“We knew going in that Angelo State was a good offensive team, but that we have one of the best pitching staffs,” Carraway said. “If we threw strikes and played our brand of baseball, we knew we’d be fine.
“After we lost the first game, we were better prepared,” he continued. “We had fun the rest of the tournament, and this group of guys plays with a very loose energy, but is also very focused.”
Prior to winning the D-II CWS, the Bulldogs made an undefeated run through the NCAA D-II Southeast Regionals to punch their ticket to their first ever big dance.
Wingate defeated North Greenville University, collected a pair of wins over the University of Mount Olive and clinched the regional title with a 4-2 win over Columbus State University (Ohio). It was also the program’s first regional championship in its history.
“It’s an amazing feeling to be a part of this historical run,” Carraway said. “There have been so many great players to come through this university and get drafted or become All-Americans. And to be the first team to win regionals and the College World Series is an amazing accomplishment.
“We understood we had a chance to win it, and we could feel that vibe even after our loss,” he added. “There was no doubt we could run the table, and this was our end-game goal from the beginning of the season. To get this for the guys who are leaving and for Coach (Jeff) Gregory, it brings me a lot of joy.”
Carraway, who started two games in the CWS, made 26 appearances this spring for Wingate, including 17 starts. Playing the corner outfield spots, and filling in as a designated hitter, he hit .209 with 14 hits, four home runs and recorded 15 RBIs.
As a redshirt freshman, Carraway recorded 26 putouts in the outfield and had a perfect fielding percentage. He noted he “grew and learned a lot” and experienced growing pains as he earned more playing time.
Carraway said that the national title win has a little extra meaning to it following the pandemic. He recalled the day last spring when the season came to an abrupt end and said that was a sticking point for the entire team in 2021.
“We remembered that feeling we had at practice when we were told our season was done,” Carraway remembered. “It really made us realize you never know when you’re playing your last game. So every day this year we gave everything we had, whether it was our first game or in the national championship.”
Dr. Jerry E. McGee, who served as the president of Wingate from 1992-2015, was in the stands for the final three games of the CWS run.
A native of Roberdell, Dr. McGee highlighted the rich history of Richmond County players to play for the Bulldogs, and said Carraway was the most recent to make a difference within the program.
“Cameron was there at the right moment, and he handled himself very well and did an amazing job,” Dr. McGee said. “I’m happy for Cameron to get two starts in the College World Series.
“It’s like the stars were in alignment,” he continued. “To play five consecutive near-perfect games is awfully hard to do, and (Wingate) played flawlessly and with poise. They did all the fundamental things and had great pitching. It’s very exciting and it was meaningful to see the stadium packed with so many people from Wingate.”
Dr. McGee added that the CWS win was also special for the program because of the current ties to the Bulldogs’ longstanding tradition and success.
Gehrig Christopher, the grandson of former Wingate coaching great Ron Christopher (for whom the school’s stadium is named after), and David Nash, the son of another coaching great, Bill Nash, were both key contributors during the CWS.
Several coaches on this year’s staff, including Gregory, are Wingate baseball alumni.
“I can’t say enough about this group of guys,” Carraway closed. “I’ve never been a part of a group so close. We molded together really well, and I can honestly say everyone on the roster is like a brother. It’s really special to win this with them.”