NAIA National Champions
Not even favored to win their own league, the 1966 Linfield baseball team overachieved all the way to the NAIA national baseball championship. Coach Roy Helser's Wildcats were a loose and confident bunch that played with the joy of six-year-olds.
The Wildcats barely qualified for the NAIA World Series as the eighth seed, then surprised everyone by winning all four of their games to claim the title. Linfield won tournament games over Guilford (4-2), Lewis (8-2) and Southern University (11-4) to advance to the championship game. The Wildcats prevailed 15-4 over Lewis in the championship game to finish the season with a 26-9 record and the first national title in school history.
Getting the the national tournament was no easy task. The Wildcats won eight of their last 10 Northwest Conference games to claim the league title, then advanced to the district playoffs where they beat Southern Oregon twice, 6-0 and 11-5, and upended Eastern Washington 3-2. Linfield then faced Westmont in the regional playoffs and split the first two games of a three-game series. In the deciding game, the Wildcats pulled off an exciting 5-4 victory to earn their trip to nationals.
The Wildcats had all the makings of a championship team. They had outstanding pitching from Stu Young, Frank Bake, Wayne Petersen and John Hart, who got credit for the victory in the championship game. They had a potent offense with hitters Alan Wells, Barry Stenlund, Frank Molek and Jay Gustafson, who led the team with a .426 average. And the Wildcats had great defense, led by shortstop John Lee.
Also making contributions to that memorable season were Jay Bandonis, Steve Collette, Gary Cox, Bob Daggett, Terry Durham, Art Larrance, Val Lewis, Roccy Reed, Tom Rohlffs, and Dennis Schweitzer.
What made the Wildcats' upset at the World Series all the more sweet was the fact that Linfield, then with an enrollment of 1,150, was beating teams with enrollments in excess of 10,000.
Young was named the outstanding player of the area and national tournament, while Gustafson, Molek and Lee were voted to the all-tournament team.