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Crosscutters’ Isaac Nunez won an NAIA title in Florida, enjoys sudden death format

Crosscutters second baseman Isaac Nunez stands for the national anthem ahead of a game against Mahoning Valley at Bowman Field Friday. JUDI PINKERTON/Sun-Gazette correspondent

Isaac Nunez was a bit late checking in with the Crosscutters. The second baseman was a tad busy to arrive in Williamsport for the start of the MLB Draft League’s second season.

That’s because the 6-feet, 1-inch former Florida Gator was off winning the Avista NAIA World Series championship with Southeastern University (Fla.) over Lewis-Clark State, the school’s second national baseball title in five years.

“It was an incredible experience. Just a bunch of guys who were born to play the game of baseball, going on the field and having fun competing every day,” Nunez said. “I think that’s what makes baseball fun, not having to worry about if we lose this game or we’re here to win this championship. We’re here to win this game and compete.”

In the final game of the NAIA World Series, Nunez went 2 for 5 with an RBI and a run. Nunez, having grown up in New York, has spent the past six years in the Sunshine State. He spent the COVID-19-canceled year with the University of Florida before transferring to Southeastern.

In his national championship-winning first season, Nunez recorded 89 hits in 231 at-bats with 71 RBIs. Nunez hit 19 doubles, a triple and homered 10 times with a .385 batting average.

Crosscutters second baseman Isaac Nunez sits in the dugout at Bowman Field during a game against Mahoning Valley on Friday. JUDI PINKERTON/Sun-Gazette correspondent

While the overwhelming majority of the Crosscutters roster is an army of fresh faces for Nunez, he has familiar company in Lance Logsdon and Hogan McIntosh, two first basemen who played for Williamsport alongside Nunez last summer.

“Both incredibly good dudes, and that’s what this program is right now. Everybody that’s on the team right now is a bunch of good dudes,” Nunez said. “Obviously everyone is here for the same purpose to get drafted, go play major league baseball, sign independent contracts and at the end of the day, I think we’re all just enjoying this moment playing competitive baseball.”

Nunez also returns to not just dozens of new teammates, but an entirely new format. But it isn’t the extended schedule or championship game he likes the most.

“What I do like about the Draft League this year is the sudden death. I think that’s really cool,” Nunez said. “It makes baseball a lot more interesting because at the end of the day, either you score or you hold it down. Straight up, nothing to it. Best man wins.”

In his very first game back with the Crosscutters on Wednesday, Nunez already experienced his first sudden death tiebreaker at home against Trenton. On the very first pitch of the frame, Sabin Ceballos caught the pitch and immediately hurled the ball to Nunez.

Crosscutters second baseman Isaac Nunez walks along the baseline during a game against Mahoning Valley at Bowman Field on Friday. JUDI PINKERTON/Sun-Gazette correspondent

Being a second baseman, Nunez was on full alert for the runner placed on first to start the inning, knowing a steal was likely coming in that situation, as it consistently has been in the three sudden death periods so far.

“I had a lot of faith in Sabin to make me a money throw,” Nunez said. “He’s one of the guys with one of the strongest arms on our team hands down, made one of the most perfect throws to my chest and made the tag on him. Having faith in your defenders, the guy back there and the guy on the mound.”

Of course, Nunez likes the action second basemen see in sudden death. And he’s certainly primed and prepared for steal attempts to come his way.

“In that situation as a hitter, you’re thinking, ‘Let me get him over. Let me hit a ball somewhere hard to right field’ or B, if he’s stealing as a hit and run, you throw to second base anyway,” Nunez said. “So, no one’s really thinking hit a home run, let me go to opposite field and second base is right there if anything happens.”

In his return — and really with any team he’s played for — Nunez tries to stay in the present. Not just when he’s busy winning national championships, but every time he sets foot inside a ballpark.

He doesn’t dwell on the draft, pro signings or independent deals, but playing against some of the top prospects in the nation.

And with plenty of action to be had before the MLB All Star break in July, the Crosscutters’ second baseman will take in every second. In the lineup, in the field and yes, ready to pick off runners in sudden death.

“I think that’s what I like to model myself as,” Nunez said. “I try to stay locked in and enjoy every moment before I can think about anything in the future.”

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