Home-field advantage prompts success
The Linfield baseball team bounced back after a disappointing three-loss showing in Lewiston, Idaho, to win three of four games at the Jim Doran Auto Classic on Feb. 25-28.
The Wildcats improve to an 8-4 overall record as they prepare for Northwest Conference action.
“I think this is a more experienced squad, and we are just hungry to compete for that top spot,” senior first baseman Rhett Fenton said.
After its first tourney win against Corban College on Feb. 25, Linfield took on the University of Puget Sound on Feb. 27. The matchup was scheduled for the previous day, but rain postponed the contest.
The delay didn’t hinder the performance of Wildcat senior starter Garrett Dorn, who provided Linfield with 6.2 innings of solid pitching, including five strikeouts and two runs allowed.
“I knew from previous years that if I shut down the middle of their order, I would have a good opportunity to win,” Dorn said. “I kept the ball down well and got ahead of hitters early, which made me successful.”
Linfield held a 1-0 lead in the sixth inning when Fenton and senior shortstop Kelson Brown each recorded singles. Junior designated hitter Kevin Coleman then picked up two RBIs with a double.
Following another run, senior right fielder Jared Adamson capped off the scoring with an RBI single, giving the ’Cats a 5-0 advantage.
Fenton provided the most damage for Linfield, tallying three hits, two runs scored and an RBI.
The ’Cats recouped quickly for a matchup with the Pacific Lutheran University Lutes that immediately followed the victory.
Lute senior pitcher Trey Watt dominated the Wildcat lineup, allowing only one run on four hits in his complete-game win.
PLU jumped ahead early in the contest with a two-run blast by sophomore first baseman Brock Gates — his conference-leading sixth home run of the season.
Sophomore outfielder Zach Boskovich recorded the lone Linfield run when he delivered a solo homer in the fifth inning, bringing the Wildcats to within one run.
The Lutes responded in the sixth inning. Senior left fielder Josh Takayoshi led off with a double that was followed by a single from senior third baseman Ben Shively. With runners on the corners, Wildcat sophomore pitcher Ryan Larson drew a double play, but Takayoshi was able to score on the play, re-establishing the Lute lead to two runs.
Watt shut the ’Cats down the rest of the way, allowing only one hit during the final three innings.
Despite the loss, Larson pitched well for Linfield, giving up a mere three runs through 7.2 innings of work.
Fenton added two more hits in the game, while Boskovich and junior right fielder Cole Bixenman tallied one hit apiece.
Linfield rebounded against Whitman College on Feb. 28, with help from Bixenman, who drove in four runs, as the Wildcats overpowered the Missionaries 11-4.
Linfield put up the first two runs of the game in the second inning when Boskovich and Fenton cashed in on RBI singles.
The Wildcats scored four times during the third inning. Senior center fielder Tyson Smith drove in Larson after a lead-off double. After a stolen base and pass ball allowed Tyson Smith to advance to third, Brown drew a walk. Soon after, Brown stole second and, on the throw, Tyson Smith crossed the plate for the second run.
Bixenman then launched a two-run shot over the left field wall, capping off the third-inning scoring.
With an 8-2 lead in the eighth inning, Linfield continued to punish Whitman pitching. Following back-to-back singles by Boskovich and senior catcher Mitch Webb, Tyson Smith lined a triple down the right-field line. Dustin Smith collected his one RBI of the day with a sacrifice fly that extended the Wildcat lead to nine runs.
After hitting .467 with two home runs and three RBIs at the Auto Classic, Fenton was named one of the NWC’s Student-Athletes of the Week — the second-straight week a Wildcat was given this honor.
Linfield opens up NWC play against Pacific University on March 6 in Forest Grove, Ore.
”You want to carry the same attitude into every game regardless of who your opponent is,” Fenton said. “My goal going into any game is to play aggressively, both at the plate and in the field, and to trust that the results will follow.”
Sports editor Grant Lucas can be reached at email@example.com