Wildcats pounce on conference title
Linfield swept George Fox by scores of 6-1, 10-3 and 2-1 April 20 and 21 to clinch the NWC title.
Game one of the doubleheader was a pitching duel between Linfield’s sophomore Chris Haddeland and Fox’s Clay Gartner, but a six-run Linfield eighth inning broke the game open.
Junior Nate McClellan led off the eighth and lined the first pitch he saw into right-center field. After freshman Finn McMichael replaced McClellan as a pinch runner, he took off on a hit-and-run play and senior Clayton Truex delivered with a base knock into right field. Senior Jordan Harlow stepped to the plate and smoked the first pitch of his at bat into left field to drive in McMichael and tie the game.
A sacrifice bunt from senior Kyle Chamberlain (who caught all three games this weekend) forced Fox’s hand, and they chose to walk senior Tim Wilson and load the bases for sophomore Corey VanDomelen. VanDomelen worked the count to a favorable 3-1 before hitting a hard grounder up the middle—just out of the reach of the second baseman—to plate two more runs.
A RBI single by junior Jake Wiley followed by a two-run double by McMichael made it 6-1. The double was McMichael’s first career at bat and hit.
Haddeland (9-1, 1.12 ERA) struck out seven during the outing without issuing a walk. This was his sixth complete game of the year, and he needed only 100 pitches to do so against the hard-hitting Bruins. Enough can’t be said about the Linfield infield in this game and throughout the series. Haddeland issues a lot of groundballs, and the infield made zero errors and routinely made tough dribblers or scorching groundballs look easy.
Game two was a 10-3 Linfield shellacking highlighted by home runs from junior Kramer Lindell (who nearly had a second home run in the eighth inning), Truex and McClellan.
The best highlight of the game came in left field in the eighth inning. Wilson tracked a massive fly ball off the bat of George Fox first baseman Derek Dixon to the fence. He timed his leap perfectly and snagged the ball over the fence and brought it back in to record the out and prevent a two-run home run. The crowd erupted in awe on both sides, and the catch was a deafening blow to an already distant comeback chance for George Fox.
Truex’s home run in the fifth inning to make it 7-2 was met with controversy. There was no doubt about it clearing the fence, but the George Fox manager and team disagreed with two ball-strike calls from earlier in the at bat. The disagreement led to an ejection for the George Fox manager, and he continued to voice his displeasure for the umpire’s decision making.
Game three on Sunday was an intense 2-1 extra inning battle that ended in Linfield’s favor. The winning run came in the bottom of the 13th inning. Wiley, 3-4 with two walks on the day, walked on four pitches, which sent Lindell to the plate. Lindell roped one over the third baseman’s head down the line and it was fair by maybe a hair. Wiley slid into home without a throw to seal the victory for the ‘Cats.
Wiley’s teammates mobbed him at the plate before moving onto Lindell and piling on top of him near the pitcher’s mound.
Linfield heads back on the road April 27 and 28 to battle last place Lewis & Clark (9-27, 6-15 NWC) in a three-game series.
Tyler Bradley/Sports columnist
Tyler Bradley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.