Game 3 Box Score
McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Trading blows on a chilly and wet Saturday afternoon at Roy Helser Field, Linfield and Willamette split a doubleheader, but the top-ranked Wildcats had the final say in a series-clinching 5-2 victory in Game 3.
Clayton Truex (Sr., Kirkland, Wash.) and Jo Carroll (Jr., Bend, Ore.) tallied four hits apiece for the Linfield offense, with Carroll going a perfect 3-for-3 in the Game 3 win. Aaron Thomassen (Jr., Seattle, Wash.) threw eight stellar innings to get the victory on the mound, improving to 3-1 on the year.
Winning its second Northwest Conference series in as many tries, Linfield improved to 12-3 overall, including 5-1 against league opponents. Willamette, meanwhile, fell to 7-8 overall and 1-4 in conference action.
Game 2: Willamette 7, Linfield 3
Tiras Koon's three-run homer in the top of the eighth sparked a late offensive surge for Willamette, which scored six times in the final two frames to break a 1-1 stalemate and give top-ranked Linfield its first loss in Division III action this year.
The Wildcats scored twice in the eighth to pull to within one, 4-3, before the Bearcats exploded for three more runs in the ninth, capped off with Brad Breier's two-RBI single to center field.
Starting pitchers Zach Brandon (Sr., Cottage Grove, Ore.) and Peter Hoffman kept hitters mostly in check through seven innings, surrendering six hits and one earned run apiece before yielding to their respective bullpens.
In the fourth, Ty Wyatt jumped on Brandon early in the count for a double to the left-center wall, and advanced to third on Breier's groundout to short. Andrew Wilson sent a sacrifice fly to right to score Wyatt and give Willamette its first lead of the series, 1-0.
Brandon settled in as the game wore on and saved his best for last, retiring the side in the seventh to set the scene for a Wildcat rally that tied the game at 1-1.
Pinch hitter Finn McMichael (So., Richland, Wash.) gave the Wildcats their best start to an offensive half inning thus far, singling past a diving Devin Bales at third base before stealing second. Kenny Johnson (Sr., Federal Way, Wash.) sacrificed McMichael to third, and the speedy left fielder scored when Corey VanDomelen (Jr., Tigard, Ore.) dribbled a grounder along the first base line and was tagged out.
A tough safe call on Brandon Chinn's drag bunt followed shortly by Wyatt's one-out single gave the Bearcats a pair of runners in the eighth. Seizing the opportunity, Koon sent a 1-2 pitch from Joseph Stevick (Jr., Bremerton, Wash.) onto the adjacent soccer field, giving Willamette a 4-1 lead late in the game.
Truex responded with a leadoff single to short, and Kramer Lindell (Sr., West Linn, Ore.) followed up with a bloop single to left center. Nate McClellan (Sr., Shoreline, Wash.) sent a line drive to right center, scoring Truex and bringing the Wildcats to within two.
Replacement catcher Chance Laboda (Jr., Seattle, Wash.) shot a single to left field, scoring Lindell and pushing pinch runner Jackson Ruckert (Jr., Albany, Ore.) to second. Pinch hitter Kameron Bates (Jr., Springfield, Ore.) beat out the double play to preserve one out for the Wildcats, but Willamette reliever Jackson Watt coaxed VanDomelen into a flyout to escape the inning with the Bearcats' lead intact.
Willamette pulled away in its final offensive inning, loading the bases before scoring once on a hit by pitch and twice more on Breier's single straight upfield.
Game 3: Linfield 5, Willamette 2
Thomassen put the Wildcats on his back, surrendering just one earned run in an impressive eight-inning performance, and the Wildcats found some more offense to bounce back from their first conference loss.
The junior right-hander got out to a great start, retiring the side in the first before ringing up three strikeouts in the second, firing up the Wildcat dugout, which came out swinging to start their offensive half of the frame.
Truex and Lindell supplied back-to-back singles with no outs to provide a quick spark to Linfield's lineup. Miscommunication on the bases resulted in Lindell getting tagged out at second on Carroll's base hit to right, but it made little difference as consecutive singles from Ben Andrews (Fr., Shoreline, Wash.) and Laboda scored Truex and Carroll, the latter when the throw to hold the Wildcat left fielder at third was mishandled.
Working with a 3-0 lead, Linfield wasn't quite finished. A pair of RBI singles from Kekoa Kaulukukui (So., Aiea, Hawaii) and VanDomelen scored two more Wildcats as the top-ranked team in Division III pulled ahead by four runs.
In the fourth, Carroll drew a leadoff walk, and worked his way around the bags to home plate, stealing second and third and scoring on a passed ball, to push Linfield's advantage to 5-0.
Thomassen carried a no-hitter through four innings, stymieing the first 13 Bearcats he faced before surrendering a single to Koon and another to Wilson two batters later. Truex made the unassisted final out, however, to keep the Bearcats from threatening Linfield's sizeable lead.
Linfield's Game 3 starter got into a bit more trouble in the sixth, allowing a Rolenn Himuro single before Tommy Kawamura reached on an error and a Chinn bunt advanced both runners with one out. Gallant drilled a single to right field, scoring both Kimura and Kawamura, to cut the Wildcats' lead to 5-2.
Eric Lawson (So., Mill Creek, Wash.) and Nick Fisher (Sr., Lake Oswego, Ore.) reached on a single and walk, respectively, to open Linfield's half of the seventh, driving reliever Evan Giddings from the game without recording an out. Garrett Davis got out of the inning without allowing Linfield to add to its lead, however.
Thomassen retired three of four Bearcats in the eighth, the only baserunner coming on an error, to keep the spread at three runs. He picked up the win after scattering four hits across eight innings, registering six strikeouts against zero walks.
Zach Manley (Sr., Coburg, Ore.) retired Willamette's middle of the order to get the save on just 15 pitches.
Bearcat starter Matt Jepson took the loss, falling to 2-3 on the year, while Gallant, Koon and Himuro tallied Willamette's only hits.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Linfield stole a season-high six bases in Game 2, but failed to hit a double for the first time all year…the Bearcats have taken one game from the Wildcats in each of the last three seasons…Truex extended his hitting streak to 10 games…Linfield's starting pitchers logged 24 innings on the mound over the three-game series…Manley recorded the Wildcats' first save since a 1-0 nonconference victory over Oregon Tech.
AHEAD: Linfield hits the road for its longest Northwest Conference series of the season, traveling to Walla Walla for a three-game set against Whitman beginning Saturday at noon.