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April 23, 2012

PLU Survives Pioneers Rally, Holds on for 9-8 Victory

PORTLAND, Ore. - Pacific Lutheran survived a ninth inning rally by host Lewis & Clark on Sunday, beating the Pioneers 9-8 and keeping its Northwest Conference baseball title hopes alive heading into the final weekend of the league season.

The Lutes improved to 23-11 overall and 15-6 in the conference, two games back of Pacific and one game behind Whitworth. PLU hosts Pacific in a three-game series next weekend with a potential conference title on the line for both teams. Whitworth is also in the hunt and has a three-game series against second division Whitman.

Pacific Lutheran broke a 4-4 tie with three runs in the seventh and then added two more in the ninth and needed just three outs to wrap up the series sweep. The Pioneers, who ended their season with a 7-33 record, including a 4-20 mark in the conference, had other things in mind.

A single, a two-base throwing error and a two-run single made the score 9-6, and an ensuing walk brought reliever Nathan Eisenhauer into the game in place of Jacob Otness, himself a reliever for starting pitcher Collin Nilson. Eisenhauer couldn't find the strike zone, however, first walking a batter and then balking in a run. After another walk, AJ Konopaski came on in relief, still with no outs. After coaxing a fly out and strike out, Konopaski walked in a run to make the score 9-8 with the bases load. A fly out ended the game, however, giving the Lutes the much-needed victory.

The Lutes opened the scoring with three in the second inning, the runs coming on a sacrifice fly by Nicholas Hall and a two-run double by Ethan Ottemiller. Lewis & Clark scored two in the third and two more in the fifth to take a 4-3 lead, but PLU tied it in the top of the sixth by piecing together two hits and a Pioneers error.

Pacific Lutheran scored three in the seventh, getting an RBI from Jacob Hoffman when he was hit by a pitch, and two more from Brock Gates on a base hit. Gates added a run-scoring double and Bo Pearson had a base hit to drive in a run in PLU's two-run ninth inning, setting up the fireworks in the bottom of the inning.

Gates finished a very productive weekend with two hits, two runs scored and three runs batted in, while Ottemiller added two hits and two RBI to PLU's 10-hit offense.

Nilson was the winning pitcher for PLU, improving to 5-2 by allowing four earned runs on five hits while walking five and striking out five. Konopaski picked up his second save of the season.

- PLU -