Austin Regional Website
AUSTIN, Texas – Perhaps the bats just needed some more time to acclimate to the Texas heat.
Two days after Linfield’s sluggers arrived in Austin – a day behind the team – the Wildcat offense returned to its productive self, putting eight runs on Pomona-Pitzer to eliminate the Sagehens and remain on the winner’s side of the NCAA Division III Austin Regional bracket.
With an 8-3 victory on a toasty Thursday afternoon at Tornado Field, top-ranked Linfield remains undefeated in the tournament and faces also unbeaten Trinity (Texas) Friday at noon Central time.
The second career triple from Corey VanDomelen (Jr., Tigard, Ore.) started off the scoring spree, a fourth-inning solo homer from Nick Fisher (Sr., Lake Oswego, Ore.) kept things rolling and Michael Hopp was steady all afternoon with a season-high three hits for two RBI. Six different Linfield players drove in runs, including two each by Hopp and Tim Wilson.
"That's been the character of this team, getting contributions from everybody all year long. With (Jake) Wylie out of the lineup, other guys were going to have to step up," said head coach Scott Brosius. "That's exactly what we need from the team, is guys that when their number is called, they step up and do a great job. They did that today."
Aaron Thomassen (Jr., Seattle, Wash.) went seven innings on the mound before handing the ball off to Garrett Miller (Jr., Corvallis, Ore.), who tallied three strikeouts in two scoreless innings of relief to secure the win for the Wildcats (36-6).
"Thomassen was his usual self, battled real hard and got through a couple of early trouble spots and then did a great job to get us through seven innings," Brosius said.
Right-hander Collin Majev lasted just four frames for the Sagehens (29-16) after yielding eight hits, seven earned runs and five walks against just three strikeouts. E.J. Lopez supplied a one-run homer and Sam Fox registered two hits for the designated home team, but Thomassen and Miller combined for 10 strikeouts, seven fly outs and eight groundouts to limit the Pomona-Pitzer offense.
For the second straight day, Wilson reached base in the leadoff spot and came around to score the first run for top-seeded Linfield. This time, it was VanDomelen with the RBI special delivery with a triple to right field. Two at-bats later, cleanup hitter Kramer Lindell (Sr., West Linn, Ore.) followed up with an RBI single through the right side that scored VanDomelen and gave the ‘Cats an early 2-0 lead.
Pomona-Pitzer’s batters put up a fight from the get-go, as Mike Moyer and Erik Munzer each pushed Thomassen to full count on 17 total pitches before walking and striking out, respectively. After surrendering a single to Jake Bruml, Thomassen coaxed Jake Nick Gentili into an inning-ending double play to get out of the inning unscathed.
The Sagehens did cut the lead to 2-1 in their half of the second. Lopez fouled off the first pitch he saw before sending the second over the left-field fence for a solo home run. Thomassen recovered with two consecutive groundouts and a three-pitch strikeout to bring Linfield’s offense back to the plate for a big inning.
Fisher walked, stole second and then moved into even better scoring position when he advanced to third on a throwing error by Pomona-Pitzer’s catcher on the attempted pickoff. Clayton Truex (Sr., Kirkland, Wash.) reached on a fielder’s choice, scoring Fisher and pushing the lead back to three runs.
Majev set the stage for more trouble by walking Nate McClellan (Sr., Shoreline, Wash.) and Kyle Chamberlain to load the bases, and Hopp made the Sagehens’ starter pay with a single through the right side that scored two more Wildcats. Back to the top of the order, Wilson laid down a bunt and put on the jets, beating out the throw to first and allowing Chamberlain to score from third.
Back-to-back singles from Fox and Moyer in the bottom of the third put some pressure on the Linfield defense once again. After the ‘Cats turned a double play, Gentili sent a ball deep down the right-field line for an RBI double, bringing home Fox from third.
Fisher opened the fourth frame with a solo home run nearly 400 feet over the left-center wall to tack another run on for Linfield, which led 7-2.
The Sagehens pushed their final run of the season across in the fifth inning. Fox reached when the throw from third to first pulled Truex off the bag, and after advancing to second on Moyer’s groundout, Fox scored on Munzer’s single up the middle.
With Drew Helgren on the mound in his second inning of relief, Pomona-Pitzer retired the side for the only time all afternoon in the top of the sixth. But an inning later, the Sagehens replaced Helgren with Robert Weller and committed a costly error to surrender another run. McClellan reached when the toss to first was dropped, and after Jordan Harlow singled and Chamberlain put down a sacrifice bunt, McClellan scored on a fielder’s choice of Wilson's bat.
Thomassen ended his afternoon in the bottom of the seventh with a four-pitch strikeout. He totaled seven Ks in an equal number of innings for his 11th win of the year.
Miller took to the mound in the top of the eighth, and immediately fired two strikes into Chamberlain’s glove. He finished Lopez on just his fifth pitch, forced Timmy Novom to fly out to right field and left Travis Bowers swinging only air to retire the side.
The sophomore right-hander allowed a single in the ninth and hit Munzer to put two runners on base, but ended the Sagehens’ postseason dreams with a strikeout to Bruml.
"To stay in the winner's bracket and to keep on that end of things was really important," Brosius said. "Similar to yesterday's game, getting some runs on the board early to grab that momentum was great to see from the offense and something I hope we keep doing."
‘CAT SCRATCH: This marks the first time in its Division III history that the Wildcats have won their first two playoff games…Linfield has now claimed five straight victories over Pomona-Pitzer, including four this season, and improved to 6-1 all-time against the Sagehens…Lopez’ home run was just the ninth allowed by the Wildcat pitching staff this year…Linfield has 12 triples in 2013, the most in more than 10 seasons...the 'Cats stole three bases against Pomona-Pitzer, bringing their season total to 93, the third most in program history...Linfield's bats did not make the outbound flight from Portland, and arrived in the middle of the night after practice on Tuesday...Thursday was considerably warmer than Wednesday's tournament-opening game, with temperatures topping out around 90 degrees.
OTHER TOURNAMENT ACTION: Kevin Leonard’s sacrifice fly helped second-seeded Cal Lutheran eliminate Texas Lutheran, the six seed, 4-3...Zach Speer threw a complete game and Jonathan Hall went 3-for-4 to lead Trinity to a 4-2 win over Texas-Tyler.
UP NEXT: Linfield plays Trinity (38-7) Friday at noon, with the winner advancing to Saturday's championship game.
Photos courtesy of Concodia (Texas) Sports Information