THIS WEEKEND: The Pacific Lutheran baseball team looks to continue its dominance within the friendly confines of the PLU baseball field when Whitman comes to town for a three-game Northwest Conference series with the Lutes. Dating back to 2006, the Lutes are 77-20 in home games. PLU won its lone home game this season, defeating Saint Martin's 12-2 on Feb. 25. The Lutes come into the weekend 7-5 overall with a 2-1 mark in the Northwest Conference after taking two of three games from Willamette in Salem, Ore., last weekend. The series between the Lutes and the Missionaries begins with a doubleheader on Saturday beginning at 11 a.m and concludes with a single game at noon on Sunday.
LIVE STATS AND LIVE AUDIO: All Pacific Lutheran home baseball games are available on the web in two formats. You can listen to the games on PLU audio webcasts provided through Stretch Internet. PLU student broadcasters, led by "Voice of the Lutes" Landyn Rookard, will bring you the pitch-by-pitch action on www.golutes.com. Click on the "Listen Live" link in the right column and on the appropriate link. Live stats are provided by PLU baseball statistician Garret Ward. Click on the "Live Stats" link in the right column and, again, on the appropriate link.OTTEMILLER'S HOT START: Ethan Ottemiller, a senior catcher (junior eligibility) out of North Bend, Ore., is putting together the best season of his career and has quietly become one of the offensive leaders for the Lutes. After being forced to redshirt the 2011 season with a broken hand, Ottemiller is hitting .440 in the young 2012 campaign, third best in the NWC. Ottemiller's .516 on-base percentage is the highest among regulars for the Lutes. Because of his hot bat, Ottemiller who has found himself in the bottom third of the order in his first two years of eligibility is currently batting second for a Lutes offense that leads the NWC, scoring 7.91 runs per game.
EVERYBODY HITS: One conference series into the season, the Lutes are leading the NWC in batting average in a big way. PLU is hitting .307 as a team. Second place Whitworth is hitting .295 as a team. The Lutes currently have eight regulars that are hitting .300 or better. Brock Gates is declaring himself as an early candidate for NWC MVP by leading the Lutes with a .446 batting average, second best in the NWC. Gates has at least one hit in all 12 games and has 10 multiple-hit games already this season.
SCOUTING WHITMAN'S OFFENSE: The 2012 season has started slowly for the Missionaries who are 2-13 overall, but they are 2-1 in the NWC after taking two of three from the University of Puget Sound last weekend. As a team Whitman is hitting .231, second worst in the NWC and is scoring only 4.0 runs per game. With a .306 average, sophomore infielder Chris Andrews is the only regular hitting above .300. Another sophomore infielder, Cameron Young, is next at .295. Aaron Cohen, a sophomore out of Juneau, Alaska, has been a bright spot for the Whitman squad with 13 RBI this season, tied for third best in the conference. Sophomore outfielder Kyle Moyes' four home runs are tied for tops in the NWC.
SCOUTING WHITMAN'S STAFF: Fifteen games into the season, Whitman's pitching staff has compiled a 6.33 ERA and opponents are hitting .298. Jake Nelson, the lone senior on the Missionaries roster, leads Whitman with a 3.92 ERA in 20.2 innings. Collecting the win in the third game of last weekend's series with UPS, Nelson went 7.0 innings allowing only two earned runs on four hits. Justin Weeks, 4.12 ERA in 24.0 innings and Will Thompson, 7.80 ERA in 15.0 innings, were the other two starters in last weekend's series with UPS.
MORE ABOUT THE MISSIONARIES: Whitman's recent history has not been good, but it appears that this is a young and improving program with an outstanding young coach in Jared Holowaty. Last season the Missionaries placed eighth in the conference, ending a five-year string of last-place finishes in which the program had a 13-122 record against NWC opponents.
SERIES HISTORY: Since the series between Whitman and Pacific Lutheran started in 1980, the Lutes have dominated the conference rivalry winning 76 of the 96 contests. The Lutes had a 20-game win streak against the Missionaries before dropping the first game of the series against Whitman, 4-2, last year. Whitman has defeated the Lutes in consecutive games five times since the series began but never three times in a row.
LAST WEEKEND: The Lutes took two out of three games in the conference opening weekend in Salem, OR against Willamette. In the first game PLU held an 8-6 lead going into the bottom of the ninth before Willamette plated three to win 9-8. It was the third straight game PLU lost in walk off fashion. After walking the first two hitter of the inning, closer Trevor Lubking, a freshman, fielded a bunt and threw it down the right field line, scoring two. After a strikeout and two intentional walks, WU won the game on a wild pitch. PLU held a 7-2 lead going into the bottom of the seventh before giving up three runs in the bottom of the seventh and ninth. Starter Chris Bishop lasted 5 innings giving up three earned runs on six hits. PLU finished with 11 hits and were paced by Brock Gates who was three for four with a run and an RBI. In the second game PLU rallied from an early 3-1 deficit to down Willamette 9-6. With the game tied at 6-6 in the top of the seventh, Gates hit a two-run homer to give the Lutes the lead for good. The homerun was one of four hit by PLU in the game. Jacob Hoffman added two of his own and Curtis Wildung, a freshman, hit the first four bagger of his college career. Jaron Iwakami, Jacob Hoffman, Curtis Wildung, Brock Gates and Sammy Davis each had multi hit days. Lubking, the loser of the day before rebounded to throw a scoreless ninth, and collect his first save of the season. The rubber match as all PLU as the Lutes cruised to an 11-4 victory. Nathan Eisenhauer collected the win giving up four earned runs on two hits in 6.1 innings of work. Austin Taylor didn't allow a run striking out five in 2.2 innings of relief. The Lutes finished the game with 20 hits. Gates, Dominick Courcy and Corey Moore each had three hit days. Willamette used six different pitchers in the contest.