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March 19, 2012

Lutes Set For Three-Game Series With Puget Sound

THIS WEEK: The Pacific Lutheran University baseball team takes on the University of Puget Sound in a three-game series for Tacoma supremacy beginning Saturday in Parkland. Pacific Lutheran is coming off a 1-2 weekend east of the mountains in Spokane, Wash., against Whitworth University. With the two losses, the Lutes dropped their record to 11-7 on the year. Pacific Lutheran is 6-3 in Northwest Conference action this season and sits in fourth-place in the conference standings. This weekend, the UPS Loggers visit Parkland for three games as the Lutes look to get back on track and push toward the top of the NWC standings. Saturday, the two teams will play a doubleheader beginning at noon. The next day, the teams come back to wrap up the series with one game, and that contest will mark the start of the second half of PLU's 40-game schedule. First pitch Sunday is set for noon as well.

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. 

COURCY FINDING HIS GROOVE: Sophomore Dominick Courcy is putting together a nice year in his first season as a regular starter for the Lutes. Currently on a seven-game hitting streak, the centerfielder is batting .350 this season from the leadoff spot. Courcy, a sophomore out of Centralia (Wash.) High School, has been key to the Lutes offensive success this season as he leads the conference with 24 runs scored. That ranks him 13th in Division III baseball, and with 1.41 runs scored per game he ranks 37th in the country. In addition, the sophomore posts an on-base percentage of .488, good for fourth best in the NWC. He also leads the Lutes with nine stolen bases in 11 attempts.

BREAKING DOWN THE GATES: Brock Gates, PLU's senior first baseman, leads the PLU regulars with a .463 batting average, nine doubles, four homers and 25 runs batted in. He has at least one hit in all 18 of the team's games this season and has compiled multiple hits in 15 of those. In five of those games he has collected three hits. Additionally, he has a total of nine multiple RBI games, meaning he has driven in at least two runs in half of PLU's game. To put all of those numbers in a Division III national perspective, Gates ranks fourth in total hits (38), 14th in doubles (9), 15th in home runs (4), 13th in RBI (25), and fourth in total bases (59). He also ranks among the top 50 players in Division III baseball in most of those "per game" averages. Great production from the senior out of Federal Way's Decatur High School.

NILSON IS NATIONAL LEADER: Sooner or later (and the Lutes hope later), pitcher Collin Nilson is going to give up an earned run, but the fact that he hasn't up to this point puts him in a group of 11 Division III pitchers who have 0.00 earned run averages. The freshman from Fife High School and Milton, Wash., has yielded only one unearned run on nine hits in 19 1/3 innings of work. He has two starts to his credit this year, allowing no runs in seven innings against Whitman and just the unearned run in a complete-game effort at Whitworth. In those 19 1/3 innings he has allowed just nine hits, meaning opponents are hitting just .138 against him at this point in the season. Nilson pitches to contact as evidenced by the fact that he has 10 strikeouts this season.

SCOUTING THE LOGGERS: Having only won two games in their past 17, the University of Puget Sound Loggers are struggling in 2012. At 4-15-1 on the year, UPS has yet to find its stride both from the plate and in the field. Batting only .240 as a team, the Loggers have scored 103 runs in 2012, ranking sixth in the NWC. Freshman Connor Savage is putting together a nice year in his first season for UPS. The outfielder is batting .306 this season and has driven in nine runs. Savage has added an element of speed to the UPS lineup as the freshman leads the NWC in stolen bases with 14. Nathan Aguiar, Matt Robinson, and Larry Stone are the starting pitchers the Lutes are most likely to face this weekend. All three UPS hurlers have started five games for the Loggers in 2012.  Aguiar, a right-handed junior, has fared the best out of all Puget Sound starters. The 6-4 righty is 2-2 and posts a 3.94 ERA. UPS is led by head coach and Puget Sound alum Brian Billings, who is in his 10th season with the program.

SERIES HISTORY: The Lutes and Loggers have met 109 times dating back to the 1980 season. In the series history, PLU holds a 60-48-1 advantage over UPS. Since the 2007 season, the Lutes have gone 16-5 against UPS. 

WHITWORTH 7, PLU 1: Whitworth's Landon Scott and Tyler Pfeffer each drilled two-run homers to lead Whitworth to a 7-1 win over visiting Pacific Lutheran on Sunday at Merkel Field. Brock Gates got the Lutes within 5-1 in the sixth with his fourth home run of the season. Nathan Eisenhauer (3-1) suffered his first pitching defeat of the season after allowing five runs on seven hits with three strikeouts and two walks in four innings.  Trevor Lubking threw the final four innings for PLU.

PLU 3, WHITWORTH 1: Making his second start of the season, Collin Nilson improved to 3-0 after throwing a complete-game five-hitter to give the Lutes a split of the doubleheader.  Nilson's only run allowed was unearned as Pfeffer reached on an error to lead off the fifth inning and later scored on Jarrell's double.  That tied the game 1-1 as Nilson and Whitworth starter Carson Blumenthal were entwined in a classic pitchers' dual. PLU's first run came in the second inning when Gates led off with his third home run of the season. The Lutes scratched across the winning run against Blumenthal in the eighth.  Taylor Wattenberg led off the inning with a single and later scored on Iwakami's sacrifice fly to left field.  PLU added an insurance run in the ninth after two walks and a passed ball allowed Jacob Hoffman to score on Corey Moore's infield single.

WHITWORTH 10, PLU 5: Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the third, Whitworth strung together five runs on six hits and one PLU error to take a 6-3 lead.  Preston Van Doren doubled to open the inning and later scored when a throw got away from Lute starting pitcher Chris Bishop.  Nick Motsinger added an RBI single and Pfeffer followed with a run-scoring double.  Landon Scott, who had singled earlier in the inning, scored on JR Jarrell's ground out to second base and Paul Miller singled home Pfeffer with the final run of the inning. Whitworth broke the game open with three more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning.  After Scott singled to lead off, Pfeffer tripled him home.  Pfeffer scored on the Lutes' second throwing error of the game and Michael Takemura drove in the final run with a squeeze bunt to increase the lead to 9-2.

-PLU-