TACOMA, Wash. – Senior Cole Bixenman drove in four runs and smacked his ninth home run of the season to help the sixth-ranked Linfield Wildcats post an 8-1 victory and finish off a three-game Northwest Conference sweep of the Pacific Lutheran Lutes on a sunny Sunday afternoon at the PLU baseball field.
Bixenman, who played his prep baseball nearby at Todd Beamer High School, collected a two-run double in the first inning, a leadoff home run in the sixth, and a RBI single in the seventh. Bixenman's homer was the 31st of his career, moving him within one of tying the Linfield career record of 32 set by Paul Dean between 1987 and 1990.
Linfield improved to 29-8 overall and finished the conference season with a 20-4 record for the second straight season. The 'Cats won their third NWC title in the last four years by five games over Puget Sound. Pacific Lutheran, meanwhile, saw its overall record drop to .500 at 18-18. The Lutes ended the conference season with a 13-11 mark, good for either sixth or a tie for fifth, depending on the result of today's Whitworth versus Whitman contest.
There was plenty of offense to go around on the Linfield side of the diamond as Dustin Smith, Tim Wilson and Clayton Truex (Sr., Kirkland, Wash.) all collected a pair of hits in addition to Bixenman's performance. Smith scored three runs, Wilson tallied two, and Truex drove in a pair as the hitters in the two through five positions were 9-for-18 with six runs scored and seven batted in.
Wildcats starter Zach Manley (Sr., Coburg, Ore.) benefited from his team's offensive output, improving his season record to 4-0 with seven innings of five-hit work. He allowed only one unearned run while striking out three and walking two. Spencer Crepeaux threw the final two innings, giving up three hits but no runs.
The Lutes got their only tally in the bottom of the sixth inning when Jaron Iwakami hit a single, advanced to second on an errant pickoff throw by Manley, moved to third on Dan Johansen's long fly to right, and then scored on a Brock Gates ground out. Aratani followed with his record-setting double, and he later added a bad hop single in the ninth inning.
PLU finished with eight hits, including three by Iwakami and two apiece by Ryan Aratani and Ryan Frost.
For the Lutes, Aratani set Pacific Lutheran career records for hits and doubles, drilling a double to the gap in right-centerfield in the bottom of the sixth inning for his 215th career hit and 42nd career double. Both marks are new PLU baseball records, breaking the standards first set by Jay Chennault (1997-2000).
Senior Scott Wall suffered the loss, his first of the season against six wins. He allowed five earned runs on 10 hits in seven innings of work. He struck out two batters and walked one. Another senior, Nic Delikat, threw a perfect eighth inning in his final appearance in front of the home fans.
COMING UP: Both teams conclude their regular season next weekend in a four-team tournament hosted by Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. George Fox will join PLU, Linfield and LCSC in the round-robin event. The Wildcats meet the host Warriors Friday night at 6 p.m., before rematching with PLU Saturday at 3. On Sunday, the ‘Cats battle George Fox at 11 a.m. in what will be their final tuneup prior to the NCAA Division III regional playoffs, May 18-22, at a site to be announced.
Needs one home run to equal Linfield career record
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