For the Review
Struggling to live up to its billing early as the projected Northwest Conference Champions, the Linfield baseball team played its way to a two-and-two split in Tacoma, Wash., against defending NWC champions Pacific Lutheran University on March 1 and 2.
“We expected better,” senior first baseman Don Bard said. “We aren’t too disappointed. They were a lot scrappier than we thought.”
Linfield now prepares to take on Whitworth College on March 8 and 9 at Roy Helser Field. Both days are doubleheaders beginning at 11 a.m. The Pioneers are sitting 2-2 in NWC play, 3-7 overall.
In the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader, the ’Cats got off to a hot start as senior left fielder Cory Ellis led with a double to left field. After senior catcher Drew Van Cleave was hit by a pitch, senior shortstop David Bachofner singled through the left-field side, leading Ellis to score and advancing Van Cleave.
With one out, sophomore Rhett Fenton doubled to left field, tacking up two RBIs. After one inning, Linfield led 3-0.
In the third inning, with one out and the bases loaded, Lute junior catcher Brandon Sales doubled to left field. Bachofner received the cutoff pass from Ellis who relayed the ball to Van Cleave, who then made a play at the plate to keep the score 3-1.
However, the inning wasn’t over as the next batter, junior infielder Jordan Post, hit a solid line drive into left field to tie the game three all after three innings.
With each team trading runs in the fourth inning, both found themselves deadlocked 4-4 going into the final inning. It wouldn’t stay tied for long, as Van Cleave singled through the left side leading sophomore pinch runner Gunnar Cederberg to score, putting Linfield up one.
Ellis led the day for the ’Cats, getting two hits off three appearances and scoring a run. The closing pitcher on the day was senior Joshua Guterman who allowed zero hits out of five batters.
Earlier that day, Linfield’s rally fell just inches short as the Lutes overcame a late surge to win, 5-4.
After being down two runs going into the seventh inning, Van Cleave came through with a single to left field, bringing in a single run to cut the lead to one. Bachofner followed with a single of his own to tie the game. However, the inning ended as Ellis grounded out, leaving two runners on base.
Pacific Lutheran was able to get the win in the final inning as junior infielder Carl Benton scored on a throwing error.
“We were kind of asleep, and it gave us some momentum going into the last game,” Bard said.
The evening game on the previous day failed in comparison to the excitement of the other three. The ’Cats had seven hits, but they were held scoreless until the last inning when senior outfielder Brian Kerr brought in sophomore infielder Peter D’Aboy on a base hit to left field.
Linfield finished the day with two errors and stranded 10 runners on base. The ’Cats lost, 8-1.
“The team is coming together,” Bard said. “(This game) made us realize we have to come to play every game.”
In the first game of the series on March 1, Linfield used a huge third inning to build an early lead the Lutes were not able to overcome.
The Lutes put up one run in the fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth innings, but solid pitching by senior Ricky Gonzales and freshman Robert Vaughn in the final three innings foiled any hopes of a Pacific Lutheran comeback. Linfield held on for the 6-4 victory.
Senior Brian Clark pitched the other six innings, allowing just 10 hits and three runs from 27 batters.
Kerr led the offense for the day, getting two hits, two runs and three RBIs off just four at-bats.