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Baseball Heads East As NWC Play Continues

Nathan Eisenhauser

THIS WEEK: Coming off a three-game sweep of Whitman College, the Pacific Lutheran University baseball team travels to Spokane, Wash. for a three-game set with Whitworth University. Last weekend, the Lutes improved their record to 10-5 on the season and with a 5-1 mark in Northwest Conference action, Pacific Lutheran sits in second place in the conference standings. Saturday afternoon, PLU and conference-leading Whitworth are slated for a doubleheader. First pitch is set for noon. The two teams come back the next day for the third-and-final game of the series, which is scheduled to begin at noon as well.  

IWAKAMI HEATING UP: Senior Jaron Iwakami is finding his stoke at the dish for the Lutes in his final season for the black and yellow. In his last four games, Iwakami is batting .500 (7-14) and has driven in five runs. In the series-opening win over Whitman, the right fielder smashed three doubles and led the team with four RBI.

STRONG STARTING PITCHING: Pacific Lutheran saw three strong outings for its starting pitchers last weekend against Whitman. Chris Bishop, Collin Nilson, and Nathan Eisenhauer combined to pitch 22 innings while only surrendering four earned runs. The trio also teamed up for 18 strikeouts on the weekend.

OFFENSIVE BARRAGE: In the Lutes three wins over Whitman, the Pacific Lutheran offense combined to score 45 runs. The last time PLU scored that many runs in NWC play was in the 2010 season, when the Lutes put 52 runs on the board in a three-game sweep of Pacific University. This season, PLU has scored 140 total runs which is good for the most among all NWC teams.   

GATES HONORED BY THE NWC: Senior Brock Gates has been named NWC Student-Athlete of the Week for his outstanding play against Whitman. In the weekend series, Gates hit .571 (8-14) and drove in seven runs. In addition, he was walked five times in the series leading to a .647 on-base percentage. The first baseman leads the NWC in six offensive categories this season including batting average (.471), on-base percentage (.513), hits (33), RBI (23), doubles (9), and total bases (48).

SCOUTING THE PIRATES: With a 3-0 mark in NWC play this season, the Whitworth University Pirates sit in first place in the conference standings. Coming off a sweep of the University of Puget Sound, the Pirates present a potent offense that has scored 10 or more runs in a game seven times this season. Tyler Pfeffer is having a big year for the Bucs and leads the team in batting average (.367), home runs (3), and RBI (22). Last weekend, the sophomore drove in nine runs in the series against UPS. Freshman Spencer Ansett leads the NWC with three wins this season. In his first year with the team, Ansett has pitched 31 innings with a 6.10 ERA.  The Lutes and Bucs have met 102 times in the series history dating back to the 1980 season. Whitworth holds the overall edge at 56-46 although PLU has won six of the last eight meetings.

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. 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.

PLU 17, Whitman 2: 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 18, Whitman 3: PLU took advantage of two Whitman errors leading to three runs in the opening frame. After hitting a single to start the inning, Dominick Courcy advanced on a wild pick-off attempt and eventually scored the game's first run on a Brock Gates groundout. The Lutes came back in the second inning, tacking five more runs on the board to push the lead to 8-0. Just like the first inning, Courcy began Pacific Lutheran's rally by getting on base with a walk. After stealing second base and advancing to third on a throwing error, Courcy and Ryan Frost, who reached base on the throwing error, both scored on a Gates double in the gap. Later in the inning, Jaron Iwakami hit his second of three doubles on the day, driving in Gates to push the lead to 6-0. Sammy Davis finished off the five-run rally with a two-out single that drove in two. In the eighth inning, the Lute bats came alive one more time, scoring 10 runs in the frame. Corey Moore contributed with two RBI singles, while both Bo Pearson and Iwakami added run-scoring singles as well. Iwakami added a two run double, his third of the game, joining Jacob Hoffman and Ryan Frost who also had RBI doubles in the eighth. Sammy Davis drove in his third run of the game with a sacrifice fly. Pacific Lutheran finished the game with 17 hits led by Iwakami with four. His four RBIs also led the team, with Gates and Davis finishing out the day with three apiece.

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