TACOMA – Six runs in the top of the ninth inning turned a one-run game into a 9-2 blowout as Pacific Lutheran completed a three-game Northwest Conference series sweep against cross-town rival Puget Sound Sunday afternoon.
Back-to-back home runs by Collin Nilson and Tyler Thompson scored four runs to put the game away as PLU improved to 23-8 overall and 15-6 in Northwest Conference play. Puget Sound fell to 15-18 overall and 12-9 in the NWC. PLU holds a one-game lead and the tiebreaker advantage over Linfield in the conference standings heading into next weekend's final conference series. The regular season conference champion hosts the inaugural NWC Tournament, a double-elimination tournament scheduled for April 24-26 featuring the top four teams in the conference standings.
Curtis Wildung finished the game 2-for-3 with his fourth double in his past two games. He also walked, stole a base and scored three runs. Thompson tallied two hits, including his fourth home run of the season, and Nilson cranked a three-run homer for his third of the year. Cory Nelson picked up the win with 3.2 perfect innings of relief to improve to 4-2 this season. Nickolas Alarcio tallied two hits for Puget Sound, while Collin Maier took the loss on the mound for the Loggers after allowing three earned runs in seven innings.
Puget Sound took a brief lead with its first run in the bottom of the second inning. Johnny Hosmer singled home Nathan Backes from second to make it 1-0 Loggers. PLU responded with two runs in the top of the third. Drew Oord led off with a single and Wildung walked to put two on. After a wild pitch advanced both runners Connor Cantu and Jacob Bockelie each drove in a run on consecutive infield groundouts.
The Loggers tied it up in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Nick Funyak led off with a double and scored on a wild pitch. That tie was also short-lived, as PLU reclaimed the lead with a run in the top of the fifth. Wildung singled through the right side, stole second, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch.
It looked like that might be all the scoring for the game until the top of the ninth. Oord drew a one-out walk, and pinch runner Tanner Bogart advanced to second on a wild pitch. Wildung brought him home with a double, and the PLU catcher scored on a single up the middle by Landon Packard. A walk to Bockelie left two on base for Nilson to send the ball over the fence in left field, and Thompson followed with a homer of his own to make it 9-2 Lutes.
The win gave PLU head coach Geoff Loomis 316 for his career, one shy of tying former coach Larry Marshall for the program record. The Lutes will have a chance to move Loomis into a first-place tie and beyond on Wednesday, when they will host Concordia in a nonconference doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m. at PLU Field.