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SURPRISE, Ariz. – Zach Brandon became the third consecutive Linfield starter to last six innings, and the bats of Nate McClellan and Kramer Lindell carried Linfield to its third straight victory in an 8-1 preseason win over 16th-ranked Concordia-Texas Sunday morning at Surprise Stadium, site of the Texas Rangers’ spring training.
McClellan and Lindell turned in three singles apiece and drove in five of the Wildcats’ eight runs. Lindell also swiped three bases, and the standout center fielder raised his batting average to an incredible .643 through the first four games of 2013.
Brandon handled Concordia-Texas’ offense with ease, allowing just one run on three hits with four strikeouts in six strong innings. The junior turned the ball over to Garrett Miller for the seventh, and Garett Speyer turned in two scoreless innings to close the game.
"Brandon did a real good job getting ahead of batters and keeping guys off balance," said head coach Scott Brosius.
Brent Schaekel drove in the Tornadoes’ lone run with a groundout in the sixth. Concordia-Texas fell to 0-6 on the season with the defeat.
For the third consecutive game, Linfield threw out a baserunner in the first inning, as Garrett Slack fell victim to the arm of Kyle Chamberlain. The senior catcher doubled and scored in addition to receiving all nine innings for the Wildcats.
Jake Wylie singled to lead off the second, and an ensuing ground ball and base hit moved the left fielder over to third. First baseman Clayton Truex followed up with a fly ball to center that was deep enough to plate Wylie and put the ‘Cats up 1-0.
Linfield (3-1) continued to display outstanding defense, as Tim Wilson and Corey VanDomelen combined for a double play in the second to eliminate a leadoff walk issued to Connor Bertsch.
The ‘Cats separated themselves in their half of the third, as Wilson set the stage with a one-out single to center. McClellan and Wylie followed Wilson’s lead with back-to-back base hits up the middle, scoring a run. A wild pitch brought home another runner, and a clutch two-out two-run knock from Lindell gave the ‘Cats a commanding 5-0 advantage.
Brandon carried the momentum over to the rubber, where he sat down 12 consecutive Tornadoes through the middle innings. Linfield did well to add to its lead, as McClellan drove in Nick Fisher with a single in the fourth, and Tornadoes’ starter Austin Rupert exited after completing the inning. Lindell and Fisher each brought home a run in the fifth off of reliever Ryan Ullmann, and the ‘Cats went in front 8-0.
Casey Skalaban and Quinn Guest got the sixth started with a pair of singles, but Brandon avoided a big inning as he escaped allowing just one run on an RBI groundout from Brent Schaekel.
Wilson and Johnson combined for another double play in the seventh, and the ‘Cats went around the horn – Eric Lawson to Wilson to Truex – to quiet the Tornadoes again in the eighth.
A perfect ninth from Speyer ensured the ‘Cats of their third consecutive victory. On the day Linfield outhit Concordia-Texas 14-5, and stole five bases while limiting the Tornadoes to none.
"Offensively, it was another solid day all the way through the lineup," Brosius said. "We did a good job of getting the lead early and adding on."
In summing up the the entire weekend, Brosius noted, "It was a good finish to the tournament after struggling offensively on the first day. We rebounded real well and were very good offensively over the final three days."
‘CAT SCRATCH: The ‘Cats have lost only three times in 20 games since their first Arizona preseason trip in 2007…the trek was not made in 2008 or 2009, but the ‘Cats were a perfect 8-0 in Arizona in 2010 and 2011 combined…Linfield has scored at least 30 runs in the series every year…the Linfield pitching staff has combined for at least five strikeouts in every game so far in 2013…the ‘Cats have recorded at least 11 hits in all four games in 2013.
AHEAD: Linfield hosts the CCC-NWC Challenge and kicks off an eight-game home stand against PLU. The tournament, featuring nine teams from the Cascade Collegiate Conference and Northwest Conference at three sites, runs Feb. 22-24. The ‘Cats and Lutes are set to meet at 5 p.m. on Feb. 22 at Roy Helser Field in McMinnville.