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March 11, 2012

PLU Sweeps Whitman, Tops NWC Baseball Standings

PARKLAND - Collin Nilson and Nathan Eisenhauer both had strong seven-inning pitching performances on a cold and sometimes rainy Sunday afternoon to lead Pacific Lutheran to 17-2 and 10-1 Northwest Conference baseball wins over Whitman at the PLU field.

The Lutes, winners of five straight games, take over first place in the Northwest Conference standings with a 5-1 record, and they are 10-5 overall. Whitman falls to 2-4 in the conference and 2-16 overall.

First Game - PLU 17, Whitman 2

Nilson, a freshman making his first collegiate start, improved his record to 2-0 by allowing no runs on only two hits in seven innings of work. He survived some early jitters, getting out of potential jams in the first and third innings, and finished his seven innings of work alowing three walks while fanning five. Jacob Otness and Kipp Godfrey both worked an inning in mop up duty.

While Pacific Lutheran managed only six hits, it had plenty of opportunities to score as four Whitman pitchers combined to walk 11 batters and hit seven more, which ties a PLU single-game offensive record.

Dominick Courcy used his speed to produce PLU's first two runs. He led off the first with a double and later scored on a wild pitch, and in the third he was hit by a pitch, went all the way from first to third on an errant pickoff throw, and then scored on a Ryan Frost's fly ball to right.

The Lutes finally broke the game open in the fifth with 11 runs, all of them coming with two outs and on just two hits. Whitman pitchers hit three batters and walked seven more, including five in a row with the bases loaded. The big hit came off the bat of Jacob Hoffman, who entered the game earlier in the inning as a pinch runner. Hoffman launched a Griffin Sutich fastball over the fence in left field for a grand slam. It was Hoffman's third homer of the season. Later in the inning, Brock Gates drilled a long double to straightaway center to drive in the final run of the inning.

PLU added four unearned runs in the sixth inning, the first scoring when Hoffman was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Frost added a two-run single and Gates finished the rally with a run-scoring base hit.

Whitman scored its runs with two out in the eighth inning. With Chris Andrews on at third and Jonny Chow on at second after both had reached on base hits, Cameron Young hit a two-run single to right-center.

Chow led Whitman's six-hit attack with two singles, while both Courcy and Gates had a pair of hits for the Lutes. Courcy scored four runs, Hoffman drove in five and Frost plated three more.

Second Game - PLU 10, Whitman 1

Eisenhauer, a senior, had his third straight solid start for the Lutes and improved his season record to 3-0. He allowed one run on five hits while walking one and striking out seven. AJ Konopaski and Trevor Lubking both threw a scoreless inning of relief, with Lubking getting all three outs via strikeout. The three PLU hurlers combined to fan 11 Whitman batters.

The Lutes scored their 10 runs on 11 hits, led by Gates with three hits and two runs batted in. Courcy had two hits and scored three runs, and Hoffman added two hits, two runs and two runs batted in.

Courcy scored the game's initial run in the first, drawing a walk, advancing to second on a passed ball and scoring on Frost's double to right field.

The Missionaries tied the game with a run in the third inning when MacLean led off with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Andrews, and then scored on Chow's base hit to center.

PLU scored five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a 6-1 lead. After Jaron Iwakami led off with a wind-blown double to center, four straight bunts led to a pair of Pacific Lutheran runs. Ethan Ottemiller reached second when his sacrifice bunt was thrown down the right field line, allowing Iwakami to score. Corey Moore's sacrifice bunt advanced Ottemiller to third and he scored when Sammy Davis beat out a bunt for a base hit. Courcy's bunt base hit was thrown away, putting runners on second and third from where Hoffman delivered them with a double. The final run scored on a bases-loaded error.

The Lutes put the game away with four runs on just two hits in the bottom of the seventh. With two outs Courcy reached on a single and then stole second, and after Hoffman walked, the pair pulled a double steal on a close play at third base. After Frost walked, Gates singled sharply to center, driving in two runs. Consecutive balks allowed Frosty and Gates to score the final runs.

Whitman got six hits, with Chow picking up his third consecutive two-hit game in the series. Harned also had a pair of hits for the Missionaries.

PLU returns to conference action next weekend when it travels to Spokane to face the Whitworth Pirates. The teams are scheduled to play a doubleheader on Saturday and a single nine-inning game on Sunday.

- PLU -