The Linfield baseball team took two of three games from Pacific Lutheran University on April 6 and 7, winning 12-8 and 10-2 and losing 3-1.
In game one on April 6, the doubleheader featured a matchup of two of the best pitchers in the NWC. Sophomore Chris Haddeland (7-1, 1.02) emerged victorious for Linfield, while Max Beatty (5-3, 2.44) was knocked around by the ‘Cats in his worst outing of the season. Haddeland struck out 11, a career high, in seven innings, while giving up just three hits and three walks.
Beatty, who missed all of last season after being diagnosed with cancer, pitched five innings and gave up nine runs (eight earned) on 13 hits and two walks, while striking out six. Beatty had given up a total of eight earned runs the entire season before this game so he saw his ERA balloon from 1.33 to 2.44. Beatty was named the top professional prospect in Division III last season by Baseball America, but the Linfield bats were not intimidated.
Linfield scored three runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings en route to building a 12-0 lead. Senior Tim Wilson, juniors Jake Wylie and Kramer Lindell all had three hits on the day, and Wylie, Lindell and junior Nick Fisher combined for 10 RBI.
Senior Clayton Truex had two hits for the ‘Cats, and senior Kyle Chamberlain continued his hot hitting with two hits, as well. Fisher and sophomore Corey VanDomelen combined for the six walks Linfield accumulated during the game.
When asked about the success against Beatty, Fisher said “Beatty’s fastball was his best weapon, and he just wasn’t throwing it very often. We could sit on his off-speed pitches and make him come to our zone, and…he elevated a lot of those pitches.”
Aside from the hitting, a troubling trend continued for the Linfield bullpen, with the combination of sophomores Joe Stevick, Kyle Billeci and junior Garett Speyer combining to give up seven runs (six earned) on two hits and seven walks. Neither Stevick nor Billeci recorded an out, but Speyer eventually closed the door on Pacific Lutheran’s chances. This comes on the heels of a shaky bullpen performance in the 9-7 loss to Puget Sound on March 30.
The second game of the doubleheader ended in a 10-2 Linfield victory, highlighted by seven strong innings from sophomore Aaron Thomassen (7-0, 1.18 ERA) and 12 more Linfield hits.
Thomassen struck out seven and walked just two, while giving up six hits and one earned run. Freshman Cody Erautt pitched the final two innings, striking out three and giving up one earned run.
The ‘Cats chased Pacific Lutheran starter Cory Nelson after just 4 1/3 innings. Nelson gave up eight runs (seven earned) on 10 hits and three walks. In a tale of the number three, Truex lashed three hits, senior Jordan Harlow scored three runs and Wilson collected three RBI. Linfield smashed 10 doubles in the two doubleheader games combined.
During Sunday’s 3-1 Linfield loss, Pacific Lutheran starting pitcher Trevor Lubking (7-1, 1.82 ERA) was throwing a no hitter through 5 2/3 innings before Fisher broke it up with a single to center field. Lubking threw a season high 135 pitches, while striking out nine, and although Lubking entered the game with just 11 walks on the season, Linfield stretched its league leading walk total nonetheless. He issued six walks and six hits but scattered them throughout the game. None of the hits went for extra bases.
Linfield made Lubking and the Lutes sweat it out in the ninth inning, however, by loading the bases. Wylie, the NWC leader in RBI came up to the plate and put a good swing on a pitch, but there would be no clutch hit for Linfield on this day, as it landed safely in the glove of the left fielder.
“The entire weekend was just a wet, cold, grind-it-out kind of series…Today was definitely frustrating because the entire season, even in games where we weren’t all there offensively, it felt like every game our bats were about to finally get the big hit we needed…but today it didn’t, sometimes that’s just the nature of the game,” Fisher said.
Linfield starting pitcher junior Zach Brandon (4-2, 2.86 ERA) had a decent outing, striking out six in six innings while giving up three runs, but he ended up taking the loss anyhow. Junior Justin Huckins pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth innings and struck out three. Linfield pitchers combined to strike out 32 Pacific Lutheran batters in 26 innings, which is well above their season K/9 rate of 7.7.
With the 3-1 win, Pacific Lutheran snapped its six-game conference losing streak, while the loss pushed Linfield into a tie in the loss column with George Fox.
The ‘Cats travel to California next weekend for three nonconference games—two against Pomona-Pitzer and one against La Verne. La Verne shut out Linfield earlier this year, 6-0 in the first game of the season.
Tyler Bradley / Sports Columnist
Tyler Bradley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org