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Baseball Travels to Lewis & Clark

Brock Gates
Brock Gates

THIS WEEKEND: In the thick of the Northwest Conference title hunt, the Pacific Lutheran baseball team travels to Portland, Ore. to take on last place Lewis & Clark College in a three-game series. At 20-11, 12-6 in the NWC the Lutes trail first place Pacific by two games but sit in fourth place trailing Linfield by a game and half and Whitworth by one game as well. The Lutes come into the weekend after taking two of three games from George Fox at home last weekend. The loss in game one of that series was the first home defeat of the season for the Lutes who are now 9-1 at home. At 7-30, 4-17 in the NWC the Pioneers come into the weekend after dropping two of three games to the University of Puget Sound last weekend. The victory in game three of that series snapped a seven game losing streak for the Pioneers. This weekend's series begins with a doubleheader on Saturday and concludes with a single game on Sunday. The first pitch for both days is set for noon.

TRAFFIC JAM ATOP NWC STANDINGS: With two weekends remaining in NWC play the Lutes essentially need a sweep against the Pioneers to remain in the title picture. The Lutes have six NWC games left to leap frog Pacific, Linfield and Whitworth in the standings. This weekend first place Pacific at 17-13, 14-4 in the NWC hosts seventh place University of Puget Sound. Linfield at 21-10, 15-6 in the NWC plays fifth place George Fox at the University of Portland. And Whitworth at 20-12-1, 13-5 in the NWC travels to sixth place Willamette. Regardless of what the Lutes do in Portland, Ore. this weekend, they will need help within the NWC. If they do receive help and take three games from Lewis & Clark this weekend, a very interesting scenario could develop next weekend when the Lutes host current NWC leader Pacific for a three-game series in the NWC finale.

GATES WATCH: After a down weekend by Gates standards going 3-12 against Linfield, the first baseman found his swing last weekend against George Fox. Gates torched Bruin pitching finishing the weekend 8-12, scoring six times with five RBI. Gates regained the best batting average in the NWC now hitting at a .407 clip. The 38 RBI and seven homeruns by Gates are both second best in the NWC.

EXIT POLLS: Going 6-4 against perennial contenders Chapman, Linfield and George Fox wasn't enough to keep the pollsters impressed as the Lutes are no longer receiving votes in American Baseball Coaches Association Poll (ABCA) or the poll. On April 3 after the Chapman series the Lutes were receiving votes in both polls. The Lutes dropped out of the rankings after dropping two of three games to No. 19 (at the time) Linfield and dropped out of the NCAA Collegiate Baseball Rankings this week after taking two of three games from unranked George Fox.

SCOUTING THE PIONEERS OFFENSE: Scoring just over 5 runs a contest, only UPS and Whitman score less runs per game than the Pioneers in the NWC. As a team Lewis & Clark has walked a conference low 83 times. The eighth place team in walks in the NWC is George Fox with 105 free passes. The Pioneers have also struck out a 232 times. Only Whitman is worse in the NWC with 240 punch outs. Senior Michael Ball leads the Pioneers with the second best batting average in the NWC at .392. Ball also leads the Pioneers in runs (28), hits (56), and on base percentage (.430). Senior Nick Lavin's .365 batting average is second best on the team and seventh best in the NWC. Ball and Lavin have scored 28 percent of the Pioneer's runs and accounted for 30 percent of the team's hits.

SCOUTING THE PIONEERS STAFF: Pitching wins championships. Conversely it also loses ball games. Lewis & Clark's pitching staff has experienced this the hard way playing a significant role in the fact that the Pioneers are 7-30 this season. Lewis & Clark's staff owns a conference worst 7.75 ERA, giving up double digit run totals in 15 games this season. Outside of his offensive prowess, Ball leads the Pioneers staff in ERA (4.32), wins (3), complete games (7), innings pitched (81.1), strikeouts (35), and batting average against (.285). Opponents are hitting .325 and scoring 8.6 runs per game against the Pioneers who have started eight different pitchers this season.

SERIES HISTORY: The Lutes are 59-38 against the Pioneers since the two teams began playing each other in 1980. Lewis & Clark was the lone team the Lutes swept in the 2011 campaign and have dropped 11 straight to the Lutes. Pacific Lutheran is 26-3 against Lewis & Clark under Head Coach Geoff Loomis who began coaching for the black and gold in 2003.

GEORGE FOX 8, PLU 6: With the game tied 6-6 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Sammy Davis was thrown out at the plate trying to score from third on a pass ball with no outs. George Fox scored twice in the top of 11th inning on a solo homerun and two out double followed by an RBI single. Pacific Lutheran was unable to respond in the home half of the 11th. Trailing 6-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Lutes scored four times to put themselves in position to win in the bottom of the ninth. The four runs came on only two hits but were driven largely by three George Fox errors. Curtis Wildung capped the rally with a two out double down the right field line that plated Brock Gates and Jaron Iwakami with the aid of a throwing error by the right fielder. Wildung finished the game 3-3 with three RBI and three walks.

PLU 8, GEORGE FOX 2: Trevor Lubking took a no-hitter into the sixth inning en route to striking out a season high 13 while giving up only two runs on two hits in 7.1 innings. Gates gave the Lutes a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third hitting his seventh round tripper of the season deep to left center. Gates drove in Corey Moore with a single in the fifth to put the Lutes up 3-0 before Collin Nilson pushed the score to 5-0 plating Gates and Ryan Frost on his first hit of the season, a double down the left field line that wrapped around third base. Nathan Eisenhauer picked up his second save of the season pitching a scoreless final 1.2 innings. Gates finished the day 2-4 with two runs and three RBI. Moore chipped in three hits of his own.

PLU 10, GEORGE FOX 6: The Lutes scored six runs in the middle three innings to oust the Bruins in a game that saw six ties or lead changes in the first five innings. After two quick outs to start the game, five consecutive Bruins reached base safely on their way to taking an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Pacific Lutheran responded with three runs in the bottom of the first on seeing eye RBI single by Gates and a two-run homerun by Wildung, his second of the season. The Lutes took a 6-3 lead scoring three times in the bottom of the fourth off RBI singles from Iwakami and Dominick Courcy and an RBI fielder's choice by Moore. George Fox tied the game in top of the fifth on a two out RBI single followed later by a two run double into the left center gap. The Lutes took the lead for good in the bottom of the sixth when Wildung and Markus McClurkin both scored on a two out throwing error by George Fox's shortstop that snuck under the first basemen's glove and into the Lutes dugout. Eisenhauer picked up his fifth win of the season in relief throwing a scoreless three innings. Jacob Otness collected his second save of the season throwing a scoreless final 1.1 innings. Gates finished his monster weekend going 4-5 with three runs and an RBI. The Lutes finished with 13 hits, McClurkin and Courcy each contributing two.