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PLU Gears Up For Big Weekend At Linfield

Sammy Davis

THIS WEEKEND: For the third time in four weeks, the Pacific Lutheran baseball team hits the road, this time to McMinnville, Ore. take on Linfield in a pivotal three game series. Sitting in second place in the Northwest Conference at 17-8, 9-3 in the NWC the Lutes hold a three game lead over the third place Wildcats who own a 17-7 overall mark, 13-5 in the NWC. The Lutes come into the series after taking three of four games last weekend from 2011 national runner-up Chapman in Orange, Calif. Linfield has won four straight sweeping the University of Puget Sound last weekend and defeating Concordia (OR) on Tuesday. The three game set will begin with a doubleheader Friday at noon and conclude with a single game Saturday also scheduled to begin at noon. The series has been bumped up one day for Easter Sunday.

RISING IN THE POLLS: Last week the Lutes appeared in the "others receiving votes" section of the NCAA Collegiate Baseball Rankings, also known as the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Poll. It was the first time this season the Lutes appeared on either of the national polls. After the strong showing in Southern California, the Lutes are now receiving votes in NCBWA/D3Baseball.com poll as well.

ABCA Poll- www.muhlenberg.edu/pdf/main/athletics/abcapoll_040312.pdf

NCBWA/D3Baseball.com- www.ncaa.com/rankings/baseball/d3/ncbwad3baseballcom

COURCY GOING OFF: After seeing limited time as a reserve during the 2011 campaign, Dominick Courcy, the Lutes centerfielder speedster is making a strong push to become an all-conference selection for the 2012 season. Courcy, a sophomore, went 10-21 last weekend scoring four times and stealing two bags. Out of the leadoff spot, Courcy is hitting .374 on the season, sixth best in the NWC. The 34 runs scored by Courcy are seventh best in the nation and his 13 stolen bases are third best in the NWC as well as 49th in the country. Oddly enough Courcy is also tied for 49th in the country with three sacrifice flies. He is tied with teammate Ryan Frost

GATES WATCH: Anyone affiliated with PLU baseball or the NWC for that matter has undoubtedly become aware that senior first baseman Brock Gates is putting up downright scary numbers this season. Despite going 4 for 19 in the four game series at Chapman, Gates still owns a NWC best .396 batting average. His five homeruns are tied for fifth in the NWC and 23rd in the country. His 31 RBI are second best in the NWC and 20th in the country. His 44 hits are 18th in the country and his 68 total bases are 15th in the country.

'COLLINSANITY' ENDS: Allowing zero earned runs in his first 28.2 innings, freshman Collin Nilson saw his scoreless streak come to a close with one out in the second inning of the series opener against Chapman last Friday. Chapman led off the inning with a double, moved the runner over on a ground ball and scored on another ground ball. Nilson went 6.0 innings allowing four earned runs on 11 hits and absorbed the loss, dropping his record to 4-1 on the season. The loss rose Nilson's ERA to 1.08 which is still tops in the NWC and 24th in the country.

SCOUTING LINFIELD'S OFFENSE: While scoring 7.25 runs per contest, the Wildcats lead the NWC with a .305 team batting average. Linfield also leads the conference striking out only 114 times. As the lone team in the NWC with a batting average over .300 Linfield has shown the combination of speed and power hitting 18 round trippers (second in the NWC) and stealing 46 bases (also second in the NWC). 2011 second team All-American Tim Wilson leads the Linfield regulars with a .356 batting average. Wilson's nine doubles also lead the team.

SCOUTING LINFIELD'S STAFF: Linfield boasts a NWC leading 2.80 ERA. Seven Wildcat pitchers who have thrown at least 8.0 innings own an ERA below 2.90. Linfield is undoubtedly led on the bump by senior righty Ryan Larson. Larson was the 2010 NWC Pitcher of the Year and a 2011 first team All-NWC selection. This year Larson owns a 4-1 record over seven starts while amassing a 2.11 ERA (second in the NWC) over a team leading 47.0 innings.

SERIES HISTORY: PLU is a mere 29-71 against the Wildcats since the two teams began playing each other in 1980. The .290 winning percentage against Linfield is the lowest amongst all NWC foes for PLU. Linfield has won the last seven meetings with the Lutes.

CHAPMAN 6, PLU 0: All-American Brian Rauh was true to form in the series opener stifling the PLU bats scattering five hits over seven scoreless innings. Collin Nilson (4-1) allowed his first earned runs of the season taking the loss after giving up four earned runs over six innings. Dominick Courcy and Jaron Iwakami each had two hits for the Lutes.

PLU 8, CHAPMAN 7: Hanging onto a one run lead in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and runners on first and third, freshman AJ Konopaski coaxed a fly out to collect his first save of the season. Freshman Chris Bishop improved his record to 3-1 allowing only two earned runs on six hits over six innings. Trailing 5-3 entering the bottom of the seventh PLU scored five times before hanging on in the bottom half of the ninth. The game winning inning was fueled by the first five PLU batters reaching safely. Dominick Courcy went a perfect five for five from the plate while scoring twice, driving in one and stealing a base. Jacob Hoffman was the only other Lute with multiple hits going two for five with one RBI and one run scored.

PLU 5, CHAPMAN 4: With one out in the top of the tenth, Jacob Hoffman hit a triple to right field and scored what would be the winning run on a wild pitch to the next hitter. Starter Trevor Lubking got a no decision despite allowing only two earned runs over seven innings. Jacob Otness instead collected the victory allowing only one run over the final three frames. Trailing 3-2 in the top of the ninth, PLU scored twice to take a 4-3 lead. Sammy Davis plated Brock Gates and Jaron Iwakami with a bases loaded single. In the bottom of the ninth Chapman forced extras after an infield single, a sacrifice bunt followed by an RBI single. Davis (2-4) and Gates (2-5) were the only Lutes to have more than one hit as PLU finished with seven hits as a team.

PLU 10, CHAPMAN 9: For the second straight game, PLU needed more than nine innings to claim a one run victory. In the top of the 11th Jaron Iwakami led off with a base hit to right center. Iwakami advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Bo Pearson and moved to third on a Sammy Davis groundout. With two outs freshman Curtis Wildung drove a ball up the middle to plate Iwakami, the game and series clinching run. Much like the day before, PLU needed a late rally to force extras. Trailing 9-6 entering the top of the eighth the Lutes scored three times. It would be the last time either team scored until Wildung's heroics. Jacob Hoffman plated Wildung and Courcy with a two out single through the left side of the infield. Gates would later finish the rally scoring Hoffman from second on a base hit up the middle. PLU finished with 17 hits as a team. Starter Nathan Eishenhaur was roughed up for six earned runs in three plus innings. For the second game in a row Jacob Otness (2-1) collected the victory out of the bullpen holding Chapman scoreless over the final 3.2 innings. Corey Moore had a monster day finishing four for five with two doubles, three RBI, two runs scored and two stolen bases.

-PLU-