PARKLAND – Freshman pitcher Derrick Mahlum put together a stellar start to his collegiate career and Curtis Wildung came up with the day's biggest hit as Pacific Lutheran opened the 2014 season with a double-header split against Concordia (Ore.) Monday at PLU Field.
With temperatures hovering in the mid-30s during the first game – and a 15-minute stretch of light snow flurries midway through – the Lutes flashed some of the outstanding pitching they'll be relying on in 2014. Trevor Lubking struck out six in 5.2 innings while giving up three runs in the opener as Concordia scored twice in the top of the eighth to claim a 5-3 win, but Mahlum followed with a 6.2 shutout innings and Wildung rocketed a home run to right field to give PLU the 1-0 victory in game two.
The two games revealed the strength of both teams' pitching corps, as Concordia limited the Lutes to only one earned run in each game and PLU pitchers combined to strike out 17 batters with only one walk on the day. Jason Snodgrass yielded two unearned runs in six innings of four-hit ball before giving way to Brad Bearden, who pitched two innings and claimed the victory for the Cavaliers in the opener. Blake Evetts came in for the ninth to earn the save, and Chris Bishop took the loss for the Lutes after giving up the go-ahead runs in the top of the eighth.
Concordia got on the board first in the opener, stringing together three singles while taking advantage of a wild pitch and a well-placed groundout to score a pair of runs in the top of the fourth. The Cavs added one more in the sixth, as CU catcher Ben Talbot singled to center with runners a runner on second to drive him in and make it 3-0.
The Lutes nearly tied it up in the bottom of the frame, as Concordia committed a pair of errors and PLU tallied three hits. Kit Banko reached on an error to open the frame, and Nicholas Hall came in as a pinch runner at first base. Jacob Clements reached on a fielder's choice, with the Cavs' second fielding miscue of the inning allowing Hall to reach second safely. Dominick Courcy followed with a bunt single to load the bases, and Ben Welch brought Hall in from third on a fielder's choice to second. One out later, Drew Oord singled to left to score Clements and make it a 3-2 game. PLU picked up one more hit in the inning, but a strikeout brought the frame to an end with a pair of runners stranded on base.
One inning later, Wildung set the stage for PLU to tie the contest with a leadoff double. A bunt single by Maikia'I Derouin put runners at the corners, and Kyle Pegram tied it up on a sacrifice fly to left. Unfortunately for the Lutes, the Cavaliers scored two runs in the top of the eighth to reclaim the lead. A fielding error, a sacrifice bunt and a groundout pushed the go-ahead run to third base, where Evetts scored following a Talbot double to right. After a wild pitch sent Talbot to third, he scored on another error to set the final score at 5-3.
The Lutes bounced back for the win in the second game, as Mahlum limited Concordia to four hits in almost seven innings in his collegiate debut. With seven strikeouts and zero walks allowed, he set the stage for PLU to claim the win with only one hit. Once again, the big hit came off the bat of Wildung, as the junior powered a high line drive shot over the fence in right in the bottom of the fifth to end CU pitcher Harrison McGhee's no-hit bid.
That proved to be PLU's only hit of the game, and that proved to be enough, as Cory Nelson and Jake Otness relieved Mahlum for 1.1 shutout innings and AJ Konopaski earned his first save of the season with a perfect ninth inning. McGhee took the loss despite allowing only the one run on one hit in six innings with seven strikeouts and no walks. Ryan Garrett pitched the final two innings, retiring all six batters he faced.
The two games combined to take only three hours and 46 minutes, as both pitching staffs set a brisk pace on a brisk winter day. With its first two games now under its belt, Pacific Lutheran travels to Arizona this weekend for the Arizona Desert Classic. The Lutes will take on Redlands on Friday afternoon before facing top-ranked Linfield and Whittier on Saturday and closing out the tournament with a morning game against La Verne on Sunday.