McMINNVILLE, Ore. – With one swing of the bat, Kramer Lindell (Jr., West Linn, Ore.) clinched the 2013 Northwest Conference championship for the Linfield Wildcats as his 13th-inning, walk-off double that landed on the foul line in left plated Jake Wylie (Jr., Eagle, Idaho) and sent the ‘Cats to a fittingly dramatic 2-1 victory over George Fox Sunday afternoon at Roy Helser Field.
After the Bruins took the lead in the second, Linfield tied the game in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI groundout by Nick Fisher (Jr., Lake Oswego, Ore.). After that, neither team scored for the next nine innings until Lindell came to the plate with one out in the bottom of the 13th. Wylie was on first after drawing a walk off of Bruin reliever Alex Keenan, and Lindell roped a line drive down the left field line into the corner. As left fielder Emmett Ackerlund raced over to pick up the ball, Wylie rounded third and headed for home. The relay throw was too late, Wylie slid across the plate and the Wildcat dugout cleared as players raced onto the field and tackled Lindell into a dogpile near second base.
The starters for each team matched each other nearly pitch-for-pitch, both throwing nine outstanding innings. Zach Brandon (Jr., Cottage Grove, Ore.) allowed one run on eight hits with no walks and a pair of strikeouts for the Wildcats, and Bruin starter Tom Zarosinski allowed one run on seven hits with a walk and seven strikeouts.
Lindell and Wylie each had three hits for the Wildcats and the latter scored both of Linfield’s runs. The sweep pushed Linfield’s record to 29-5, and its 18-3 mark in NWC play ensures an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Baseball Championship, at a regional site to be announced Sunday, May 12.
Derek Dixon, Zac Israel and Jared Chase each had a pair of hits for the Bruins, and third baseman Zach Miller made a pair of outstanding back-to-back plays at third base in the bottom of the ninth to take away two Wildcat hits. George Fox fell to 24-12 on the season and finished NWC play in second place with a record of 17-7.
Back-to-back singles by Danny Clifford and Dixon gave the Bruins a pair of base runners in the second. A sacrifice bunt moved them over to second and third, and Israel plated the first run of the game with an RBI single to center.
Both starters cruised through the third and Wylie drew a walk with one out in the fourth. After going from first to third on a base hit by Lindell, Fisher beat out the back end of a double-play attempt, which allowed Wylie to score the tying run.
The bats went silent for both teams through the middle and late innings, as the Bruins had five base runners in the fifth through the ninth, and the Wildcats had just four in the same span.
Things got interesting in the tenth as Justin Huckins (Jr., Bend, Ore.) came on in relief of Brandon. After hitting the first batter of the inning, Linfield’s closer retired the next three hitters in order to preserve the 1-1 score.
Following Huckins’ lead, Keenan plunked Jordan Harlow (Sr., Baker City, Ore.) to start the bottom of the tenth, and a pair of ensuing walks loaded the bases for Wylie with one out and the game-winning run just 90 feet away. The NWC RBI leader hit a soft ground ball to short and, against all odds, was doubled up at first to end the inning and keep the game tied.
The 11th and 12th were nearly identical to the 10th for the Bruins offensively, as the leadoff hitter reached, was sacrificed to second and then left stranded there by the next two hitters.
George Fox managed to get a pair of base runners in the top of the 13th as Josh Rapacz singled and Clifford walked with two outs, but a pop-up ended the frame.
The ‘Cats finally got to Keenan in the bottom of the inning, as Wylie walked and Lindell sent Linfield home happy with the championship-clinching hit.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Linfield secured its third NWC title in the last four years…the 13-frame marathon marked the first extra inning game of 2013 for the ‘Cats…the NWC sweep was the Wildcats’ fourth of the 2013 season…the walk-off win was the first of the season for the ‘Cats…Brandon notched nine innings for the first time this season…Wilson’s 16-game hitting streak was snapped as he went 0-for-5…five seniors were honored prior to the first pitch: student assistant coach Zach Boskovich, Kyle Chamberlain (Sr., Portland, Ore.), Harlow, Michael Hopp (Sr., Portland, Ore.) and Wilson.
‘CATS GIVE BACK: After the game, the entire Linfield team, including members of the coaching staff, shaved their heads as part of a fundraiser for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which funds childhood cancer research and treatment…the Wildcats raised an estimated $3,000 to support the cause.
AHEAD: The Wildcats travel to Portland next weekend to face Lewis & Clark in their final NWC series of the season. A doubleheader is set for noon Saturday, April 27 and the series wraps up Sunday with a single game at the same start time.
Third league crown in four years
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McMinnville, OR 97128