After a season that included a 17-game winning streak and a ranking that reached as high as 11th in the nation, Linfield baseball was denied a playoff spot by the Tournament Selection Committee, a group of 10 athletic directors from across the nation who decide which teams participate in the postseason.
The Wildcats wrapped up their season with a 28-12 overall record and a 22-10 Northwest Conference record, finishing third in the conference and 25th in the nation.
During its winning streak, Linfield outscored its opponents 166-53 while stringing together 183 hits. At the end of the sixth week of the season, the ’Cats reached their highest rank. However, after back-to-back losses to Lewis-Clark State and Pacific universities, Linfield dropped two spots.
Including the two losses to LCSU and Pacific, the Wildcats finished the season 8-9, falling short of repeating as NWC champions.
“There were points during the season where I believed our offense, defense and pitching was up there as one of the best in the country,” junior pitcher Reese McCulley said. “I would take our team talent-wise and put us up against any team in the country and say we had a legitimate chance of winning.”
McCulley excelled for the Wildcat pitching staff. After an 8-0 season and a 3.07 earned run average, McCulley earned first-team All-NWC honors.
Joining McCulley on the first-team roster is senior outfielder Stew Davis, who batted .379 on the year with seven home runs and 44 runs batted in.
Sophomore catcher Cole Bixenman was selected to the second-team All-NWC. Bixenman led the Wildcats with nine homers and 53 RBIs while batting .383. Senior pitcher Cam Larson shared the same honors after a 5-3 season in which he struck out a team-high 40 batters.
Along with the close to the 2009 season comes an end to the careers of five Linfield seniors: Davis, Larson, Ty Stanley, Don Bard and Ryan Lewis.
“They were huge parts of our team, both on the field and off,” McCulley said. “Not only were they good players, but they were great leaders.”
Although the ’Cats’ season is done, the field is still in use. Roy Helser Field is hosting the NCAA Division III West Region Tournament from May 14-17.
Pomona-Pitzer College from Claremont, Calif., earned the top seed in the bracket. In seeding order, the remaining teams are the University of Texas at Tyler, California Lutheran University, George Fox University, Chapman University and Hendrix College.