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AUSTIN, Texas – With a record-tying, complete-game effort on the mound, Chris Haddeland (Soph., McMinnville, Ore.) needed just two Linfield runs to back him up as the top-ranked Wildcats kicked off the NCAA Division III Austin Regional with a 2-0 shutout win over sixth-seeded Texas Lutheran Wednesday afternoon at Tornado Field.
Haddeland rang up nine Bulldog batters with a 112-pitch complete game, notching his 12th victory of the season to tie the single-season mark set by Ryan Larson in 2010. The sophomore ace retired the last 14 hitters he faced, did not allow a runner past second and surrendered just two hits on the afternoon for his first career postseason victory.
“Haddeland was terrific today," said head coach Scott Brosius. "He had command of all of his pitches - a lot of life on his fastball and late break on his off-speed stuff - and just did a great job of getting ahead of batters and staying ahead.”
Jake Wylie (Jr., Eagle, Idaho) and Jordan Harlow (Sr., Baker City, Ore.) supplied one RBI each for Linfield (35-6) on a relatively quiet offensive day for the nation’s top ball club. The Wildcats lit up TLU starter Jeff Spillane for seven hits over the first five innings, but managed just two runs in the first two frames and zero hits in their final 13 at-bats.
“In the early games of the tournament where you’re seeing everybody’s No. 1 and No. 2 pitchers you expect a low scoring kind of a game. Any time you can grab momentum early and put a couple of runs on the board early in the game it starts to apply a little pressure on the other side," Brosius said. "Their guy did a great job of settling in as well and keeping us there, so as it turned out those first two innings ended up being the whole game offensively.”
Starter Haddeland was rolling early, striking out Tony Gennusa and Jennings Boothe before forcing Christian DeBlanc into a groundout for a 1-2-3 first inning for Linfield.
Once on offense, the ‘Cats wasted little time getting on the board. Tim Wilson (Jr., Redmond, Wash.) led off with a walk and moved into scoring position on a groundout from Corey VanDomelen (Soph., Tigard, Ore.). Stepping up to the plate next was Wylie, who sent the third pitch he saw through the left side to plate Wilson and give Linfield a 1-0 lead just a third of the way through the lineup.
The excitement of grabbing an early advantage was temporarily tempered during the next at-bat, when Wylie was injured on an attempted steal and did not return to the game.
Not rattled by the defensive changes that sent Wilson to left field and brought Kenny Johnson (Jr., Federal Way, Wash.) out of the dugout to cover second, Haddeland continued to mow down the Bulldog lineup, retiring the side once again in the second frame.
Nick Fisher (Jr., Lake Oswego, Ore.) led off Linfield’s half of the inning with a double to center field, and came around to score the Wildcats’ only other run of the day on Harlow’s double to left center. Harlow, the sole multiple-hit Wildcat on Wednesday, finished 2-for-3.
Bulldog second baseman Mason Briscoe broke up Haddeland’s bid for a no-hitter in the third with his two-out, 0-2 single to center. No real threat emerged, however, as Gennusa lined out to Johnson at second to end the inning.
Linfield came close to tacking on another pair of runs in the bottom of the third, but a long ball from Kramer Lindell (Jr., West Linn, Ore.) with one runner aboard came up just a bit short of clearing the 400-foot center-field wall, instead dropping into Gennusa’s glove for an easy out.
The Wildcats’ only other scoring opportunities came in the fourth and fifth innings. Back-to-back singles from Nate McClellan (Jr., Shoreline, Wash.) and Harlow proved harmless for the Bulldogs when Spillane got Kyle Chamberlain (Sr., Portland, Ore.) to fly out to center. In the fifth, Wilson singled and advanced to third on a pair of groundouts, but a third consecutive groundout ended both the inning and the scoring threat.
Though Spillane stymied the Linfield bats for the rest of the afternoon, the Bulldogs could not come up with any offense to support him as Haddeland cruised through the final four innings. The right-hander benefitted from a diving line-drive catch from Harlow in the eighth, and needed just eight pitches to close the door in the ninth.
Briscoe and Tyler Carollo supplied the only hits for the Bulldogs (33-13), who lost their third consecutive game dating back to the American Southwest Conference tournament. Spillane suffered the loss, his third of the year, after giving up seven hits and three walks against five strikeouts across eight innings.
“We pitched great today and played really solid defense," Brosius said. "We just need to continue to do a better job in these next games going forward of putting a little more pressure offensively on the other team.”
‘CAT SCRATCH: Haddeland did not surrender a single base on balls for the third time this season…Linfield improved to 28-2 when scoring first and 16-1 when scoring in the first inning…the ‘Cats are now 3-3 in opening-round playoff games in the Division III era…Linfield tied the all-time series against Texas Lutheran at 1-1…the Bulldogs topped the Wildcats 9-6 in the only other meeting between the two clubs back in 2005…early morning thunderstorms made for a muggy start to the game…after a couple of small rain showers, the sky had mostly cleared by about the fifth inning…game-time temperature reached the mid 70s.
OTHER TOURNAMENT ACTION: Ryan Lucero threw a complete-game shutout for Trinity (Texas) and the Tigers took advantage of two Cal Lutheran errors on the same play - Kelly Woodruff's double - to score the only run in a 1-0 victory over the second-seeded Kingsmen...Texas-Tyler rallied from three runs down against Pomona-Pitzer to force extra innings, and Jeff Kosta scored on a passed ball in the bottom of the 11th for a dramatic 4-3 win.
AHEAD: The Wildcats play again Thursday at 3:30 p.m. CDT against Pomona-Pitzer.
Photos courtesy of Concordia (Texas) Sports Information.
Nine strikeouts, zero walks
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McMinnville, OR 97128