Game 1: Linfield – 2 vs. Texas Lutheran – 0
Sophomore Chris Haddeland (12-1, 1.06 ERA) started the opening game of the regional and threw his second shutout of the season (seventh complete game) en route to a 2-0 Linfield victory. It may have been his most dominant outing of the year—he gave up just two hits while striking out nine on 112 pitches.
The ‘Cats were hit with an injury to All-NWC first team outfielder, junior Jake Wiley, in the first inning. After driving in the first run of the game with an RBI single, Wiley was thrown out while attempting to steal second on a hit-and-run play, and sprained his right ankle during the slide. Wylie was helped off the field and was replaced by senior Kenny Johnson.
Wiley’s RBI single and an RBI double from senior Jordan Harlow in the second inning were the only runs the ‘Cats could push across for Haddeland, but it was all he needed.
Game 2: Linfield – 8 vs. Pomona-Pitzer – 3
A big offensive contribution from senior Michael Hopp off the bench in replace of Wiley, as well as another stellar game from junior Tim Wilson buoyed a nice outing from Aaron Thomassen and gave the ‘Cats an victory.
With Wiley unable to play because of his sprained right ankle, Hopp played second base while Wilson moved into Wiley’s left field spot. Hopp went 3-5 at the plate with two RBI.
Thomassen (12-1, 2.65 ERA) allowed seven base runners and two earned runs in his first three innings, but settled down for his final four innings to pick up the victory.
“The first couple innings were more of a struggle with the heat. Making the adjustment to 90 degrees and high humidity can be pretty difficult. Eventually I got into a rhythm and used a faster pace to get myself out of the heat,” Thomassen said.
He ended with a line of seven innings and seven strikeouts, and gave up three runs (two earned) on seven hits and four walks on 121 pitches.
Wilson reached base in four of his five plate appearances, driving in two RBI and scoring a run. Junior Nick Fisher launched a solo home run to lead off the fourth inning. It was his fifth home run of the season.
Game 3: Linfield – 4 vs. Trinity – 3
The No. 1 ranked ‘Cats emerged victorious against the No. 6 ranked Trinity University Tigers behind solid pitching—including a surprise save for Haddeland on one day rest—and a four run first inning, highlighted by a three run bomb from Fisher.
Linfield began the game with three straight hits. Wilson and sophomore Corey VanDomelen singled and then scored on Fisher’s second home run of the regional tournament (his sixth of the season). The ‘Cats would pick up their final run of the inning—and the game—on a bases loaded walk by Hopp. Wylie remained out of the lineup with a sprained right ankle.
The Trinity starting pitcher only recorded one out in the first inning before being replaced, but Trinity freshman Michael Walker entered in relief and pitched the remaining 7 2/3 innings without giving up a run.
Junior Zach Brandon (8-2, 3.09) pitched 5 1/3 innings effective innings and had to pitch out of jams caused by three errors — two from VanDomelen and one from Hopp.
Junior Justin Huckins pitched in relief and struck out one before handing the ball over to Haddeland for the final 1 1/3.
Haddeland had thrown a complete game just two days before, but the decision to send him out there was as much his own as the Brosius.’
“If we won this game we were in the drivers seat, so taking care of business was super important. I was ready to go so they put me in,” Haddeland said.
Game 4: Trinity – 3 vs. Linfield – 2
Despite an inside-the-park home run by Wilson and Wylie’s return to the lineup as the designated hitter, the ‘Cats could not eliminate the Tigers and move on to Appleton in this game.
With fresh arms at a premium, the ‘Cats sent sophomore Joseph Stevick to the hill to make just his second start of the season. Before the game, Stevick did not even know he would be starting.
“I was really excited when I was told that I would be the one to start the game,” Stevick said.
He responded with a quality start, and said he attacked the hitters with a lot of fastballs low in the zone while mixing in off-speed pitches for big pitches.
Unfortunately for Stevick, Linfield’s offense could only muster nine baserunners and two runs on the day. Fisher drove in Wilson with an RBI single in the sixth inning and Wylie singled right after, but a key and uncharacteristic double play off the bat of junior Kramer Lindell ended the inning.
“I felt pretty badly for my teammates that I waited until the regional tournament to ground into double plays,” Lindell said.
The only other Linfield run came in a strange play in the eighth inning. On a 1-0 pitch, Wilson drove a pitch to the deep center field wall that appeared to be caught. The ball actually dropped out of the glove of the center fielder and Wilson sped around the bases for the inside-the-park home run.
The ninth inning saw the ‘Cats put Lindell and senior Kyle Chamberlain on base, but Johnson struck out looking to end the game.
Game 5: Linfield – 3 vs. Trinity – 1
On the brink of elimination, another relief appearance by Haddeland, and some key hits with runners in scoring position from the offense propelled the team to the victory, and punched their ticket to Appleton, Wisc.
Linfield handed the ball to Huckins—the NWC leader in saves—to make his first start of the season, and he went 3 1/3 innings and allowed just one run—a solo shot by Trinity center fielder, junior Pat Hirschberg, in the second inning.
In a role reversal with Huckins, Haddeland (13-1, 0.99 ERA) entered in relief and went the rest of the way. Just like his previous outings during the week, he gave up zero runs.
His outing was also met with a 20-minute delay on the field after a disputed call ended the seventh inning. The umpires called Wilson out after the ball hit him while he was running to second base. Linfield manager Scott Brosius protested the call, but dropped the protest so that Haddeland’s arm did not get cold.
Haddeland was undeterred, and he finished the final two innings.
The ‘Cats responded to Hirschberg’s home run in the bottom half of the second inning. Lindell walked and Truex was hit by a pitch. They then moved to second and third base on a balk. Harlow then grounded out to second base to score Lindell.
In the sixth inning, the hobbled Wylie stepped to the plate with two runners on, and after fouling off a few pitches, he lined a 3-2 pitch to left field for an RBI single. Truex would smoke a line drive to center field to drive in Fisher for the third and final Linfield run of the game two batters later.
A large celebratory dogpile occurred on the pitchers mound after the final out. There was much rejoicing.
Tyler Bradley /Sports columnist
Tyler Bradley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.