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May 16, 2007

Patient Lutes Bust Out, Win Regional Tournament Opener 12-4

Box Score

ORANGE, Calif. - When Pacific Lutheran fell behind Austin College 2-0 after two innings of their first-round game at the NCAA Division III West Regional on Wednesday, head coach Geoff Loomis wasn’t worried.

Surprised, but not worried.

He had good reason to remain calm as the Lutes, playing their first-ever NCAA Division III baseball postseason game, defeated the Kangaroos from Sherman, Texas, 12-4, to improve their record to 33-7. With the victory, the second-seeded Lutes advance to a winner’s bracket game at 1 p.m. Thursday against third-seeded Texas Lutheran, which scored a run in the bottom of the ninth to beat Pomona-Pitzer, 4-3. The winner of that game advances to a Friday winner’s bracket contest, while the loser plays again Thursday in a loser-out game at 8 p.m.

Austin College, the seventh seed in this seven-team regional, came into the game as the only squad in the entire 51-team national tournament with a losing record. The ‘Roos hardly seemed daunted by their task or by the Lutes as they pounded four hits to score a couple of first-inning runs against PLU ace Joe DiPietro. After two innings the score was still 2-0.

“I just know that when Joe is out there, he’s going to be out there for at least seven good innings,” said Loomis. “But when he gave up two runs on four hits in the first inning, I was surprised.”

Austin threatened to add at least one more run in the third, but an unusual double play stopped the rally. With one out and runners on second and third, Lute rightfielder Justin Whitehall caught a fly ball and fired home. John Reisig, tagging from third base, slid around catcher Bryce DePew, but he missed the plate with his head first dive. DePew, seeing that Reisig had not touched the plate, dove and made the tag for the final out.

That pumped life into the Lutes, who scored three runs in the bottom of the third on an RBI groundout by Jordan Post and a two-run single by Tyler Green. The Lutes added another run in the fourth on Roger Guzman’s squeeze bunt, and then went in front 6-2 on a clutch two-out, two-run double by Brandon Sales in the fifth inning.

“Two-out baseball is our game,” said Sales, flashing a big grin among a large contingent of Lute supporters who made the trip to Southern California. “That’s what we take pride in.” Sales said that Austin's plan was to work the outer half of the plate. "Baseball is a game of adjustments, and we all made the adjustment and hit the ball the other way."

PLU finished off the ‘Roos by scoring five in the sixth inning and one more in the eighth. The Lutes finished with 17 hits, including two each from eight of their nine starters.

The support came in handy for DiPietro, who allowed four runs on 10 hits in eight innings to improve his record to 11-2. Jeremy Ellison pitched the ninth, recording PLU’s ninth strikeout to finish the contest.

- PLU -