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April 7, 2012

Otness Spells Relief as Lutes Get One From Linfield

McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Jacob Otness threw 3 2/3 innings of solid relief and Brock Gates hit his sixth home run of the season, keying Pacific Lutheran to a dramatic 6-5 Northwest Conference baseball victory over No. 19 Linfield on a sunny Saturday afternoon at Roy Helser Field.

Otness entered the game in the sixth inning with the Lutes and Wildcats knotted at 4-4, and though he allowed the go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh, the freshman right-hander was stellar for PLU, which improved to 18-10 overall and 10-5 in the conference.

Gates hit a go-ahead two-run homer to give the Lutes the lead in the sixth, and then the team put together a two-run game-deciding rally in the top of the eighth.

For the third straight time in this series the Lutes scored a run in the first inning, this time when Corey Moore hit a single, stole second and then came in on Jacob Hoffman's base hit.

Linfield, 19-8 overall and 15-6 in the NWC, got a run back in the bottom of the first and added two more runs in the third inning on Jordan Harlow's two-run homer. The 'Cats threatened again in the fifth, putting runners on second and third with two outs. PLU shortstop Sammy Davis made a slick sliding stop-and-throw on a ground ball to record the out and prevent the two runners from scoring.

Davis led off the next inning with a double but was still on second base two outs later when Hoffman hit a single to score Davis, and Gates followed with him homer over the left field fence.

The Wildcats tied the game in the bottom of the inning on a long homer by Zach Boskovich, and after reliever Robert Vaughn got two outs in the top of the seventh to leave three PLU baserunners stranded, they took the lead in the bottom of the inning on a sacrifice fly.

PLU was quick to respond in its half of the eighth, loading the bases off of Vaughn with no outs. An infield single and bases-loaded walk plated a pair of runs, but Vaughn was able to coax three consecutive groundouts to get out of the jam and limit the damage to two runs.

The Lutes carried the 6-5 lead into the ninth, and Otness remained in the game to face the top of the Wildcats' lineup. The right-hander promptly retired the side in order, salvaging a victory for the visitors.

After managing just 11 hits in 18 innings Saturday, the Lutes collected 12 hits today. Hoffman and Gates, hitting in the third and fourth positions, both had two hits and two RBI. Bo Pearson and Davis also had a pair of hits for the Lutes.

Linfield managed a total of eight hits, six of those (and four runs) coming against PLU starter Chris Bishop. Otness allowed one run on two hits while walking two and striking out three.

The Lutes, three games behind NWC leader Pacific, hosts George Fox next Saturday and Sunday in yet another important three-game conference series. The teams play a doubleheader starting at noon on Saturday and a single nine-inning game starting at noon on Sunday.

- PLU -