Linfield Wildcats

1971 Baseball
NAIA National Champions

On a hot afternoon June 9, 1971, Linfield (28-11) beat Lipscomb (Tenn.) 9-8 in 10 innings at the NAIA World Series in Phoenix, Ariz. The title came in Ad Rutschman’s first year as Linfield baseball coach. It was the second national championship sports team for Linfield.

Team letterwinners, most of them juniors and Oregon high school graduates, were Mike Avery, Tom Briggs, John Buck, Mike Cahill, Cary Clancy, Vince Doherty, Mike Maley, Jim Owens, Kip Patterson, Glen Plagman, Dave Robertson, Mike Smithey, Mike Springer, Dennis Stevens, Spencer Wales, Bob Walker, Greg Walsh, Dan Waritz, and Ron Webb. Jim Corley was assistant coach. In addition to the NAIA World Series title, the team won the Northwest Conference, NAIA District 2, and NAIA West Coast Area.

NWC play began inauspiciously with a 6-2 loss to Whitman. But that was one of only four NWC losses against 14 wins.

After winning conference, the Wildcats won a best-of-three  NAIA District 2 series with Western Oregon. Playing in McMinnville, the Wildcats lost the Friday opener, 9-3, but came back on a cold and windy Saturday to win 6-1 and 9-2.

At the NAIA West Coast area tournament in Klamath Falls, Linfield’s bats came alive. Linfield beat Montana State-Northern, 16-2, in the first game and then Central Washington, 4-0. The Wildcats beat Central again, 11-5. Shortstop Avery was a batting phenom and won the tourney MVP award.

At the NAIA World Series, the Wildcats faced hometown favorite Grand Canyon in the opening game. Linfield fell behind 5-0, but came back to win 10-9. When Grand Canyon was eliminated, many of the local fans began cheering for Linfield.

The ‘Cats trailed in many of their six World Series games, but never lost faith that they could fight back and win. They beat SW Oklahoma State, 9-6; Indiana  (Pa.), 6-5; and Lewis (Ill.), 7-2.

Then came Lipscomb. For the first time in the series, the Wildcats did not come from behind. They lost, 7-6, setting up another game with Lipscomb (43-15) for the title. Lipscomb took a 1-0 lead, only to have Linfield score six runs in the top of the second, for a 6-1 margin. The ‘Cats added a run in the sixth to lead 7-1. But, Lipscomb outscored Linfield 6-0 in the final three innings to force the game into the 10th inning.

In the top of the 10th, the decisive runs were scored in the space of three batters. Pitcher Doherty started the rally with a one-out single. Leadoff batter Glen Plagman followed with a triple to left- center, scoring Doherty for an 8-7 Linfield lead. Springer followed immediately with a single to right to bring in Plagman for 9-7. Springer hit a right field single, driving in Glen Plagman.

Lipscomb rallied in the bottom of the 10th, scoring one run, but Doherty struck out the clean-up batter with the tying run on base to end the championship game. Linfield won its second NAIA World Series.

World Series honors included four all-tournament selections: catcher Webb, .448 batting average, MVP; first base Springer, .481, Bronze Glove; and pitchers Doherty (3-1, 5.60 ERA) and Wales (1-0 and a save, 2.63 ERA).