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LEWISTON, Idaho – Tim Wilson and Eric Evenson each had three hits and Cole Bixenman tied the Linfield career home runs record, helping third-ranked Linfield wrap up the regular season with a 6-4 victory over the George Fox Bruins on the final day of action at the Inland Cellular Baseball Tournament Sunday afternoon here at Harris Field.
Linfield, the Northwest Conference champion, takes a 31-9 record into the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament, which will be contested at eight regional campus sites starting May 18. The official tournament field is expected to be announced Sunday, May 15, by the NCAA.
Bixenman's home run, the 10th of the season and 32nd of his career, pulled the senior catcher even with Linfield record holder Paul Dean, who established the all-time home run mark between 1987 and 1990.
The Bruins got on the board first with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth. With two down, Derek Blankenship singled, Derek Dixon doubled down the left-field line, and Jay Kirchhofer knocked them both in withy a single to right. Dixon’s first four hits since being called up from the junior varsity program, all on this trip, have been two-baggers.
The Wildcats got one back off GFU starter Andrew Snyder in the bottom of the inning on Bixenman’s homer, then forged ahead with three in the fifth off reliever Carl Mason (2-1), who did not get an out. Gunnar Cederberg walked, Evenson doubled, and Dustin Smith singled to center to tie the game, taking second on a relay throw to the plate. Connor Harris replaced Mason and got two outs before surrendering run-scoring singles to Nate McClellan (Sr., Shoreline, Wash.) and Kevin Allan.
A single by Blankenship, a ground out, and an RBI single by Zac Israel brought the Bruins within one at 4-3 in the eighth, but the Wildcats pulled away with two insurance runs in the home half off Brian Davis. Kevin Coleman singled to lead off, pinch runner Kramer Lindell (Sr., West Linn, Ore.) advanced on a wild pitch, and Cederberg walked, bringing in Jacob Brown to replace Davis. After Evenson sacrificed the runners along, Wilson and Bixenman each singled to drive in a run.
The Bruins rallied in the ninth as Eric Gantenbein reached on an error at third with one out, Derek Aldrich walked, and Blankenship singled to left to score Gantenbein. With Dixon the go-ahead run at the plate, Linfield closer Evan Hilberg induced a 6-4-3 double play to end the game and notched his fourth save.
Zach Manley (Sr., Coburg, Ore.) started and got the win for Linfield to improve to 5-0 for the season. Manley pitched five full innings, allowing seven hits and two runs, and striking out four while walking in two. Hilberg went 2 2/3 innings for the save, surrendering four hits and two runs, one unearned, with two strikeouts and a walk.
Snyder, the first of six George Fox pitchers, worked four complete innings, giving up four hits and one run while fanning two and walking two. Harris went two shutout innings and Kyle Albertson one scoreless frame.
Blankenship had three hits and Gantenbein two for the Bruins, who had 11 hits in all. Evenson and Wilson led the Wildcats’ 15-hit attack with three safeties each, while Bixenman, McClellan, and Allan had two apiece.
George Fox finished its 16th consecutive winning season with a 26-13 record.
Fourth-inning homer ties career record
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