Game 2 Box Score
McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Moving within one game of clinching at least a share of the Northwest Conference baseball title, the fifth-ranked Linfield College Wildcats hammered the George Fox University Bruins 13-4 in the second game after the Bruins had rallied in the ninth inning for an 8-7 first-game win Friday afternoon here at Roy Helser Field.
George Fox is now 24-10 overall and 14-9 in the conference, while Linfield is 25-8 overall and 16-4 in league play. The final game of the series is Saturday at 12:00 noon, which will be the Bruins’ final conference game of the season. The Wildcats go to Pacific Lutheran University next weekend for their final three NWC games.
What began as an anticipated pitching duel between staff aces Brian Ranta for George Fox and Ryan Larson for Linfield in the first game devolved into a roller-coaster offensive show in the late innings.
George Fox got on the board first with a run in the third inning on consecutive singles by Dan Winterstein, Taylor Hunter, and Sam Stahl. Linfield tied it in the bottom half of the inning on singles by Nate McClellan (Sr., Shoreline, Wash.) and Gunnar Cederberg and a force out at second on an Eric Evenson grounder.
The Bruins went back in front in the fourth, scoring twice with two outs. Jay Kirchhofer walked, Derek Blankensip singled, and Winterstein drilled a two-out, two-run double to left-center. They added another in the fifth on singles by Stahl and Derek Aldrich and a squeeze bunt by Nate Hickok, and got an unearned run in the sixth when Linfield shortstop Kevin Allan made a diving stop of Eric Gantenbein’s hit behind second base but then threw wildly to first, allowing Hunter to score from second.
Linfield began a comeback against Ranta, who had allowed only three hits through six innings, with two in the seventh on a walk to Tim Wilson, a double by Cole Bixenman, and a two-run double to the center-field wall by McClellan.
A four-run outburst in the eighth knocked out Ranta and gave Linfield its first lead. Cederberg singled, advanced on a passed ball, and scored when Dustin Smith’s single was muffed in left. Wilson was intentionally walked, and Bixenman greeted reliever Jacob Brown with a two-run double to put Linfield ahead. Allan’s two-out double made it 7-5 Wildcats as Bixenman scored.
Back came the Bruins in the ninth as Stahl, Gantenbein, and Aldrich singled for one run against Spencer Crepeaux (1-2). A balk moved pinch-runner Matt Zeller and Aldrich to third and second, and Hickok laid down a squeeze bunt to tie the game. Zac Israel’s sacrifice fly to center plated Aldrich as the Bruins regained an 8-7 lead.
Brown (2-1) got the first two hitters out in the ninth before Evenson singled and Smith doubled, putting the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position. Wilson, last week’s NWC Player of the Week, then bounced back to the mound as the Bruins hung on.
George Fox finished with 16 hits, including three each by Stahl, Aldrich, and Blankenship. Winterstein, Hunter, Gantenbein had two hits apiece. For Linfield, Smith, Bixenman, and McClellan had two hits each out of the Wildcats’ total of 11.
Linfield came out swinging with a vengeance in the nightcap, jumping on the Bruins for eight runs in the first and four more in the third. In the opening frame, Smith singled with one out, Wilson walked, and then the Wildcats banged out five consecutive hits. Bixenman singled to load the bases, Smith scored on a wild pitch, Clayton Truex (Sr., Kirkland, Wash.) singled in a run, Allan doubled in another, McClellan hit the Wildcats’ first triple of the year for two runs, and Kevin Coleman singled in McClellan. Evenson singled and later scored on a two-run single by Wilson.
In the fourth, Cederberg and Evenson singled before Bruin starter Clay Gartner (2-4) threw away a sacrifice bunt by Smith for one run. Southpaw Connor Harris replaced Gartner and gave up a sacrifice fly to Wilson, an RBI double to Bixenman, and a run-scoring single to Allan. The Wildcats added a final run in the sixth on a triple by Allan and a sacrifice fly by Jesse Boustead.
George Fox got one run in the second on a single by Aldrich, two ground outs, and a double by Blankenship. They added two more in the third on a two-run double by Aldrich, and scored in the ninth on a walk to Derek Dixon, a single by Sam Kiesse, and a fielder’s choice grounder by Todd Nagamine.
Zach Brandon (Sr., Cottage Grove, Ore.) (3-0), the first of four Linfield pitchers, got the win with five innings of work, scattering six hits while allowing three runs, two earned, with two strikeouts and three walks. Justin Huckins (Sr., Bend, Ore.) went two shutout innings, Jacob Nolte one, and K.C. Wiser gave up the Bruins’ last run in the ninth.
Linfield hammered out 16 hits, with Allan going 3-for-3. Evenson, Wilson, Bixenman, Coleman, and Cederberg had two hits each. George Fox had eight hits, with Stahl, Aldrich, and Blankenship getting two apiece.