For the second time in three years, the Wildcats are heading to the NCAA Division III World Series in Appleton, Wis., after cruising to a 12-3 victory against the Mississippi College Choctaws in the McMinnville Regional championship on May 22.
After falling to Pomona-Pitzer on May 20, Linfield faced early elimination, but three straight wins earned the Wildcats their first West Regional title.
The Wildcat pitching staff held opposing batters to a .173 batting average during the final three matchups, while Linfield’s offense outscored its counterparts 28-3.
Senior Reese McCulley sparked the three-game streak, posting 10 strikeouts and allowing just four hits against Chapman University on May 21.
Senior shortstop Kelson Brown led the Linfield offense with two doubles and three RBIs, while senior center fielder Tyson Smith and sophomore left fielder Zach Boskovich each tallied an RBI.
In the sixth and eighth innings, junior third baseman Dustin Smith earned free passes before Brown belted doubles to right-center field, scoring Smith all the way from first base.
The ’Cats’ big inning came in the top of the ninth after they loaded the bases with one out. Tyson Smith drove in one run on a fielder’s choice to second base, and then senior second baseman Ryan Larson crossed the plate on a wild pitch, extending Linfield’s lead to six runs.
Linfield’s win earned them a rematch against Pomona-Pitzer the same day for a chance to advance to the regional championship.
Junior Robert Vaughn nearly broke the program’s single-game strikeout record, fanning 13 batters in just seven innings pitched.
The Wildcat offense provided early insurance for Vaughn, posting seven runs in the first two innings.
In the first, Linfield capitalized on two errors by ____ shortstop _____ Kang, scoring three unearned runs. Larson drove in the fourth score of the frame with an RBI single to left field.
With the top of the order coming up in the second inning, the Wildcats recorded three runs with two outs, including RBIs from Boskovich, senior first baseman Rhett Fenton and senior catcher Mitch Webb. Linfield sealed the win in the eighth inning with three more runs.
The ’Cats faced Mississippi College for the championship on May 22, and they came out swinging.
In the first three innings, Linfield tallied seven runs on five hits, jumping to a 7-3 lead. Three errors by the Choctaws allowed the Wildcats to put up four runs, while Brown, Boskovich and Tyson Smith drove in the other three.
In the top of the sixth inning, Dustin Smith did something that no Linfield batter had done the entire postseason, belting a home run over the left-field wall to give the ’Cats an 8-3 advantage.
Linfield’s powerful offense came to life in the eighth inning after Bixenman teed off on a two-run blast with two outs. Boskovich followed suit with a home run of his own, which was followed by the ninth bomb of the season by Fenton.
Larson picked up his 11th win of the season and second of the tournament after allowing three runs and 11 hits.
Tyson Smith earned the Tournament Most Outstanding Player after recording a .524 batting average, 10 runs and seven stolen bases.
Linfield will face the University of Massachusetts-Boston, the New England Regional champion, on May 28 for the first round of the national tournament.
Freelancer Grant Lucas can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org