THIS WEEKEND: After dropping two of three games to Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore. last weekend, the Pacific Lutheran University baseball team will play host to the visiting George Fox University Bruins in a three-game Northwest Conference series with huge playoff implications. The Lutes currently sit in fourth place in the NWC at 18-10, 10-5 in the NWC. Playing 10 of their last 13 contests on the road, the Lutes will be glad to play within the friendly confines of their home field where they are 7-0 on the season. PLU has outscored opponents 86-15 in those seven games. The Bruins come into the weekend after losing two of the three to the University of Puget Sound. Dropping the series to the Loggers left the Bruins a full game and a half behind the Lutes at 15-15 overall, 11-7 in the NWC. The series begins with a doubleheader at noon on Saturday and concludes with a single game Sunday, first pitch for that game is set for noon as well.
NWC MADNESS: After playing Linfield last weekend, the Lutes find themselves with nine NWC games remaining to make a push for a conference title. Sitting in fourth place, the Lutes trail first place Pacific, 16-9 overall and 13-2 in the NWC, by three games. Fortunately for PLU, six of their final nine games are at home. After this weekend the Lutes travel to last place Lewis & Clark next weekend before concluding the NWC season with what could be a championship deciding weekend at home against Pacific. The Boxers travel to Spokane, Wash. to play second place Whitworth this weekend in another crucial NWC series. Complete NWC standings and remaining schedules can be found at http://nwcsports.com/sports/bsb/index.
REMAINING IN THE POLLS: After dropping two of three games to Linfield, who was ranked No. 19 in the ABCA Poll and the NCBWA/D3Baseball.com Poll, the Lutes are now receiving votes in only the ABCA Poll. The complete rankings in both polls can be seen below.
SCOUTING THE BRUINS OFFENSE: At the plate things begin and end for the Bruins with sophomore catcher Josh Rapacz. Rapacz leads the NWC with a .392 batting average. Outside of batting average, the right handed catcher also leads the Bruins in at bats (120) and hits (47). Rapacz is second on the team with 23 RBI. As a team George Fox is hitting .292, second best in the NWC (the Lutes are hitting .291) and scoring 6.13 runs per contest. The nine triples hit by the Bruins are tops amongst the NWC.
SCOUTING THE BRUINS STAFF: George Fox owns the third best ERA in the NWC at 3.83. The Bruins are led by horses sophomore Taylor Dunn and 2011 First Team All-NWC senior Brian Ranta. In nine starts Dunn is 3-1 with a 1.96 ERA (second in the NWC) over 55.0 innings. At 5-1, Ranta owns the second most wins in the NWC. Ranta is also the owner of a 2.28 ERA and a conference leading 51 strikeouts over a team leading 67.0 innings. The Bruins third starting pitcher, freshman Tom Zarosinski is 1-5 in nine starts with a 5.16 ERA over 45.1 innings. His 47 strikeouts are second in the NWC. Junior reliever Alex Keenan's three saves are also second best in the NWC.
SERIES HISTORY: Only 17 years into the now heated NWC rivalry, the Lutes are 20-31 against the Bruins. Despite the Bruin's advantage in the overall series, the two teams have split the previous 16 matchups between each other dating back to the beginning of the 2008 season. PLU lost two of three games to the Bruins last season in their NWC opening series.
FUN FACTS: Because of a poor field conditions George Fox has not played a single game on their home field this season… The Lutes are 15th in the country with 49 HBP and 24th in the country with 125 BB… The Bruins 41 sacrifice bunts this season are fifth in the country… George Fox's Taylor Hunter is second in the country with 11 sacrifice bunts of his own...
LINFIELD 11, PLU 1: The Wildcats roughed up starter Collin Nilson scoring five runs, all earned off seven hits as Nilson lasted only 4.2 innings. PLU's lone run came in the top of the first inning. Sammy Davis led the game off with a double to center field, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Corey Moore, and scored when the next hitter Jacob Hoffman singled to left field. Linfield responded with two runs of their own in the bottom of the first inning on two consecutive two out RBI singles. Linfield scored twice more in the bottom of the second and the route was on. PLU finished with only six hits as a team. Hoffman was the only Lute to have a multi-hit game going 2-3 with the lone RBI.
LINFEILD 6, PLU 2: It was the same song different verse for the Lutes. After taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, Linfield scored three times in the bottom of the inning and didn't look back. Starter Trevor Lubking gave up five runs, three earned over 6.2 innings of work while striking out six. The Lutes scored in the first on a bases loaded walk by Jaron Iwakami. Trailing 5-1 in the top of the sixth inning, PLU scored their second run on Taylor Wattenberg's first homerun of the season. The Lutes managed only five hits as a team, Corey Moore had two of them going 2-4 with a run.
PLU 6, LINFIELD 5: In what was essentially a must win game in order to keep their title hopes alive, the Lutes managed just enough offense and clutch pitching to snap a nine game losing streak to the Wildcats. Trailing 5-4 in the top of the eight the Lutes scored twice to take the final lead of the game. Brock Gates scored on an infield single by Bo Pearson and the next hitter, Ryan Frost walked with the bases loaded to plate Jaron Iwakami. Jacob Otness (3-1) was stellar in relief collecting the win after giving up only one earned run in 3.2 innings of relief. Chris Bishop started the game for the Lutes and gave up four earned runs over 5.1 innings. For the first time in the series the Lutes had over ten hits, finished with 12. Brock Gates was 2-5 with two runs scored and two RBI including his sixth homerun of the season. Jacob Hoffman, Bo Pearson, and Sammy Davis each had multi-hit days as well.