The Linfield baseball team opened the conference season with a three-game sweep of Pacific University.
The sweep stretched Linfield’s winning streak to 10 games.
The ‘Cats destroyed Pacific 10-2 and 6-1 in the March 2 doubleheader before grinding out a 4-3 victory on March 3.
Linfield now has a record of 10-1 on the season.
Sophomore Chris Haddeland fired his first career complete game in game one of the doubleheader, allowing just four hits and two runs (both unearned) and piling up a whopping 16 groundouts. He struck out eight and walked three.
Junior Jake Wylie mashed the ball all game. He picked up a hit in each of his five at-bats and accumulated five RBI and one run scored. Sophomore Corey VanDomelen went 2-4 with three runs scored, an RBI and a stolen base and senior first baseman Clayton Truex launched his first homerun of the season over the left field fence.
In game two, sophomore Aaron Thomasson tossed six innings of one-run ball before handing the ball to junior Justin Huckins for the final three innings. Thomasson moved his record to 3-0 on the young season with a .95 ERA and Huckins struck out four in his three frames.
The hitting standouts during game two of the doubleheader were juniors Nick Fisher and Tim Wilson and sophomore VanDomelen. Wilson, fresh off being named the NWC position player of the week, began the game with a hit and VanDomelen followed suit. Wilson finished 2-5 with two runs scored, while VanDomelen swiped a bag, lashed three hits, two RBI and one run scored. Fisher crushed his second homerun of the season deep over the left field fence in the second inning and finished 2-3 with a walk, two runs scored and two RBI. Both Wilson and Fisher stole two bases.
On March 3, junior Zach Brandon went eight and a third innings before junior Garett Speyer danced around danger to record the final two outs. Brandon allowed eight hits and finished with two strikeouts and zero walks.
The top of the fifth inning was key for Brandon and the Wildcat defense. A leadoff double by Pacific’s sophomore Donnie Bradley, followed by a sacrifice bunt and a hit by pitch left runners at first and third with one out. Brandon coaxed a groundball from Pacific’s Charlie Gaff, which started a 1-6-3 double play to end the inning and stifle the Pacific threat.
Linfield plated its first two runs of the game in the bottom half of the fifth inning. With two outs, Wilson and VanDomelen singled and walked, respectively and McClellan and Wylie knocked them in with back-to-back RBI singles. The other two Wildcat runs would come in the sixth inning. Senior Jordan Harlow recorded his first hit of the weekend, an RBI single that scored senior catcher Kyle Chamberlain, and Fisher drove Harlow in with a high, towering triple to deep center.
Faced with a 4-0 deficit, Pacific made things interesting in the ninth by scoring three runs, but Speyer struck out Pacific’s Michael Arakaki for the final out, stranding runners on second and third base.
Three Linfield starters are mashing with batting averages above .400 (Wylie, Fisher and junior Kramer Lindell) and Wilson and VanDomelen are reaching base at the top of the order at a clip of .440 and .469. The pitching remained dominant (just three earned runs this weekend), and the defense continued its stellar work.
Linfield will look to continue its winning ways with a nonconference game at 2 p.m. March 5 at home against Montana State-Billings before traveling to Salem, Ore., for a two-game series against Willamette on March 9 and March 10.
Tyler Bradley/ Sports columnist
Tyler Bradley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.