Linfield Wildcats
March 22, 2014
Pirates unearth scant treasure at Linfield
Game 1 Box Score
Game 2 Box Score
McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Jo Carroll (Jr., Bend, Ore.) and Eric Lawson (So., Mill Creek, Wash.) drove in two runs apiece as second-ranked Linfield edged Whitworth in a pair of hotly contested Northwest Conference baseball bouts, 4-2 and 2-1, on a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon at Roy Helser Field.
Lawson paced the Wildcats (17-3, 10-1 NWC) with three hits, while Carroll was one of five Wildcats to tally two or more hits on the afternoon. Chris Haddeland (Jr., McMinnville, Ore.) and Zach Manley (Sr., Coburg, Ore.) picked up the victories on the mound.
Jeremy Druffel and Nick Motsinger smacked three hits each for the Pirates, who fell to 6-11 on the year, including 3-5 in Northwest Conference action.
GAME 1: Linfield 4, Whitworth 2
A solo homer from Carroll sparked a three-run fifth frame for the Wildcats, who opened up a 4-0 lead, just enough to withstand a late rally attempt from the Pirates.
Haddeland threw seven scoreless innings before giving up two late earned runs. The reigning conference, regional and national pitcher of the year had a quietly effective day, registering just two strikeouts but 18 combined groundouts and flyouts as part of a 101-pitch outing.
Linfield second baseman Kenny Johnson (Sr., Federal Way, Wash.) sparked the Wildcats early, sending a line drive down the left-field line to give Linfield a runner in scoring position and two outs to work with. Corey VanDomelen (Jr., Tigard, Ore.) advanced Johnson to third on a groundout to short, and Lawson spliced a ground ball to the far left corner of the outfield to plate the first run of the afternoon.
Whitworth had its opportunities, totaling seven hits, but could not capitalize until the eighth frame, when it was too little, too late.
In the top of the first, Druffel's two-out single to center pushed Josh Davis, who drew a walk, to third, but a diving grab in left field by Carroll on Thomas Wakem's fly ball prevented the Pirates from scoring an early lead. Matt Nelson led off the second with a single before stealing second, but failed to tag up quickly enough on Justin Liu's pop out to second as Linfield's defense wiped the slate clean before ending with an easy groundout from Lawson at third to Clayton Truex (Sr., Kirkland, Wash.) at first.
Both defenses held until the bottom of the fifth, when Carroll launched the first pitch of his second at-bat over the right-field wall – between the 365-foot marker and the scoreboard – to give Linfield a 2-0 lead.
Chance Laboda (Jr., Seattle, Wash.) and Johnson kept the offense rolling with a single and walk, respectively, and VanDomelen sacrificed both runners into scoring position. Laboda scored on a passed ball, and Lawson plated Johnson with a single to left field for a 4-0 Wildcat advantage.
Providing some late-game drama, Whitworth cut the lead in half in the top of the eighth. Motsinger drew a free bag on a hit by pitch, advanced to second on Josh Davis' groundout and scored on Druffel's double down the left-field line score the first Pirate run of the series. Lindell attempted a sliding catch for the third out, but the umpires ruled the ball down, allowing Druffel to score and Wakem to reach first. Facing adversity, Haddeland picked the perfect opportunity to record his second strikeout, avoiding any further damage.
Nick Fisher (Sr., Lake Oswego, Ore.) led off the bottom of the ninth with a base hit to center and moved to second on an error. But Pirates reliever Dan Scheibe recorded three consecutive outs to keep the spread at just two runs for his offense.
Linfield's Cody Walker (So., Hood River, Ore.) came in to seal the deal for the Wildcats, registering a groundout and back-to-back strikeouts to earn the save.
GAME 2: Linfield 2, Whitworth 1
Carroll was clutch again in Game 2, spoiling a potential inning-ending double play by beating the throw to first to allow Truex to score the winning run in the bottom of the eighth.
Zach Brandon (Sr., Cottage Grove, Ore.) cruised through seven innings, recording a career-high seven strikeouts, but Manley picked up the win after entering a tie ballgame and surrendering just one hit over the final two frames.
Had Linfield made good on its many scoring opportunities, the game likely would not have been a nail-biter. The Wildcats twice loaded the bags – once with two outs of breathing room in the third and again in the fifth with all three outs preserved – but failed to cash in either time.
Early on, Linfield's offense was effective. Back-to-back hits from Carroll and Ben Andrews (Fr., Shoreline, Wash.) in the second gave Linfield another early lead. Carroll planted a fly ball between three Whitworth defenders giving chase along the left-field line in the outfield, and Andrews scored the Wildcat left fielder in the next at-bat with a base hit to center.
After surrendering consecutive walks to Johnson and VanDomelen to lead off the third and watching both runners advance on Lawson's sacrifice bunt, Pirates starter Cory Mack intentionally walked Fisher to load the bases. The gamble paid off as Whitworth exactly what it needed when Garrett Hughes, Motsinger and Wakem turned the inning-ending double play. 
Davis and Druffel each delivered two-out singles in the fifth, but Brandon picked off Druffel for the final out to escape with the shutout intact.
Ryan Pladson (Fr., Sammamish, Wash.) led off the bottom half of the fifth with a single to left, and Johnson put another runner aboard with his second base hit of the day. VanDomelen advanced both runners and reached on a fielder's choice when the throw from catcher to third was dropped at the far bag. Unfortunately for the ‘Cats, Mack sandwiched two flyouts around a strikeout to keep the spread at 1-0.
Brandon struck out Paul Miller to open the seventh, but pegged Eric Nikssarian to put a runner on. Motsinger doubled to right center and Nikssarian put on the jets, rounding third and sliding under the tag at home to knot the score at 1-1. Gerhard Muelheims sent a fly ball to center, and Motsinger went to third, but was called out at second when the umpires ruled he left early.
Finally in the eighth, the Wildcats rediscovered their offensive groove. Truex sent a two-out double 355 feet to the left-center fence, and read Lindell's fly ball to shallow center perfectly, advancing to third when Motsinger, the Pirate shortstop, came up just short in his bid to lay out for the catch.
Carroll drilled a grounder up the middle and narrowly beat out to the double play to allow Truex to sprint the final 90 feet to home plate. Pinch hitter Nate McClellan (Sr., Shoreline, Wash.) sent a single to left center, pushing another Wildcat (Carroll) into scoring position, but Taylor Isadore coaxed Pladon into a flyout to end the threat.  
Manley allowed just one baserunner in the final two innings to earn the victory, his second of the year.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Carroll's home run was a career first and Linfield's sixth of the year…Walker recorded his first career save…VanDomelen extended his hitting streak to nine games, currently the longest on the Linfield squad… Jake Wylie (Sr., Eagle, Idaho) returned to the lineup as the starting designated hitter in Game 1…Brandon topped his previous high single-game strikeout total by one.
AHEAD: Linfield and Whitworth battle one more time before the weekend's end, facing off Sunday at noon.
Action Image
Zach Manley
Tosses two scoreless innings in Game 2
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