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PARKLAND, Wash. – Trevor Lubking carried a no-hitter 5 2/3 innings and did what few pitchers have been able to this season, keeping second-ranked Linfield’s prolific offense in check as Pacific Lutheran swiped Game 3 from the Wildcats in a low-scoring 3-1 Northwest Conference matchup Sunday afternoon at PLU Field.
Zach Brandon went six full innings, totaling six strikeouts against three earned runs, but was given precious little room to work with as just one Wildcat – Tim Wilson – tallied more than one hit.
Highlighted by a second-inning, solo home run from first baseman Curtis Wildung, PLU (16-11, 7-8 NWC) did its damage in the second, third and fourth innings. Garett Brown hit 2-for-3 with an RBI and Carson McCord helped push another run across to lead the Lutes, who outhit the ‘Cats 8-6 (22-5, 15-3 NWC) on the afternoon.
Early on, Linfield looked to carry over its high-scoring ways from Saturday’s doubleheader, with Wilson drawing a walk and moving over to third in the top half of the first. But consecutive strikeouts sent the Wildcats to the field with zeroes across the scoreboard.
Taking the mound in a steady rain, Brandon struck out the first two Lutes he faced and coaxed a groundout to the third to retire the side to match Lubking in holding his opponent scoreless.
Fisher reached on an error in the second after smacking a grounder that the PLU shortstop couldn’t handle cleanly. He was left stranded on first, however, as Linfield’s 6-8 hitters recorded consecutive outs.
The Lutes drew first blood in their half of the second inning. Wildung sent a full-count pitch over the right-field fence for PLU's first lead of the series. Drew Oord followed up with a single, but Brandon shook off the consecutive hits for three straight outs to escape with little damage.
A pair of singles from Garrett Brown and Daniel Altchech put runners on the corners for PLU in the bottom half of the third. Brown scored on a fielder’s choice to give the Lutes a 2-0 lead before Brandon recorded his fourth strikeout of the game to leave one runner aboard.
Lubking quickly retired the side in the fourth to bring the Lute offense back to the plate.
After Alec Beal drew a walk and Trushinsky singled to left, Brown worked back from an 0-2 count and lobbed a two-out single over Kyle Chamberlain at first to push another run across. A hit batter loaded the bases, but the Lutes continued a season-long trend and stranded all three runners with a fly out to right field, keeping the advantage at 3-0.
Back-to-back singles loaded the bases for Linfield in the fifth inning. Wilson was called out swinging, a tough play that stung even worse after the next at-bat when Kenny Johnson, who had drawn a walk, was put out at second on a fielder’s choice for the final out of the inning.
In the sixth, Clayton Truex singled through the left side and a successive bunt from Chamberlain pushed Linfield’s designated hitter over to second. Johnson singled up to the middle to plate Truex, who easily scored when the throw from right field was snagged by the first baseman to get Johnson out at second. One run was it for the Wildcats, however, as VanDomelen flied out to end the inning.
Justin Huckins took the mound in the seventh, and proceeded to pitch a stellar two innings of relief, striking out three against zero walks to prevent the Lutes from adding to their lead.
Linfield worked its way around the bases once more in the eighth, but had nothing to show for it. On the day, the Wildcats stole five bases but also left 11 runners stranded on the bags.
Huckins retired the side in the eighth, paving the way for one final rally opportunity. Chamberlain singled and VanDomelen drew a walk, but Lubking recorded his ninth strikeout of the day and coaxed two fly outs to earn the complete-game victory.
'CAT SCRATCH: Wilson and Nick Fisher accounted for all five of Linfield’s stolen bases and rank first and second, respectively, among league leaders for that category…Wildung’s home run was just the second given up by the Wildcat pitching staff this season…Linfield dropped Game 3 for the third time this year…the ‘Cats still remain in first place in the conference standings…second-place George Fox only completed one of its three scheduled contests against Puget Sound due to poor weather conditions.
COMING UP: The Wildcats head to California for a quartet of nonconference games against the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Linfield plays a three-game set against Pomona-Pitzer over Friday and Saturday, and looks to avenge a season-opening loss to La Verne in a single game Sunday afternoon.