’Cats streak snapped, but still tops NWC
photo by Danyelle Myers/For the Review
The baseball team got a chance to head south during Spring Break for warmer weather and a break from Northwest Conference competition.
Competing in four doubleheaders against both Whitman College and University of Puget Sound, the ’Cats moved on to California State, East Bay in Hayward, Calif.
After winning the first game, the ’Cats lost the next two. The third and final game was pushed into 12 innings but East Bay managed a run in the bottom of the 12th to give the ’Cats their sixth loss of the season.
On deck for Linfield is a two-game series against No. 2 Pacific University April 5 and 6 in Forest Grove, Ore. It is the first and only matchup between these two teams this season.
During its time in California, Linfield fought hard against East Bay, but came out of the series 1-2.
“It was a fun trip, but a long drive,” senior pitcher Brian Clark said. “I think the trip brought us together a little more as a team. The best part of the trip was getting to play a different team than we usually see. It was a good atmosphere, and a good test for us.”
The ’Cats got a big win in the first game, scoring at least one run in six of nine innings to help them to a 9-4 victory.
Senior catcher Drew Van Cleave was key to the offensive production, going a perfect three-for-three at the plate.
The last two games of the series were much tougher for both teams, ending with two one-run victories for the Pioneers.
The second game finished 4-3, in favor of the Pioneers, even though the ’Cats were the first to strike with two runs in the third inning. East Bay answered back with 11 hits, while the ’Cats only managed three.
The third and final game of the series went to the Pioneers in an extended match. Van Cleave hit a single to help senior shortstop David Bachofner across home plate for the eighth-inning lead. The lead would be brief though, as East Bay came back in the bottom of the inning.
In the next three innings no team managed much offense until the bottom of the 12th.
Freshman pitcher Evan Hilberg was called on to make his first appearance of the season.
With runners on first and second base and only one out, it would have been a tough situation for any pitcher to come into.
Hilberg walked the first batter he faced to load the bases then gave up an RBI single to Pioneers senior designated hitter Lamonte Toney to end the game.
Back in conference play the weekend before, the ’Cats pushed their winning streak to an impressive 11 games before losing to the University of Puget Sound in the final game of a four-game series on March 22 in McMinnville.
The ’Cats played well the entire game, with the exception of the sixth inning, when they allowed the Loggers three runs to take the win, 3-2.
“We are really focusing on taking each game one at a time,” Clark said. “We have a pretty competitive conference, and you really can’t dwell on what has happened.”
Linfield played strong in the first three games of the series, producing at least nine hits in each game.
In the series against Whitman University in Walla Walla, Wash., the ’Cats continued their dominating play and upped their win streak to eight games.
Whitman is at the bottom of the NWC standings and was no match for the ’Cats at this point in the season. Linfield won all but one game with a large margin, including wins of 10-0 and 13-4.
The ’Cats hold a narrow lead atop the conference standings but are behind in games played, giving them more chances to slip up. This weekend’s contests against Pacific will be big for the ’Cats and their playoff hopes.
“We are in the drivers seat right now by having a lead in conference,” Clark said. “We control our own destiny. If we do what we are capable of, we should come out on top.”