By Christian Bond, Sports Information Student Writer
PARKLAND, Wash. - Eight seniors from the Pacific Lutheran baseball team will participate in their final scheduled home series this weekend as the Lutes welcome cross-town rival University of Puget Sound. During the past four years, the group has helped elevate PLU's status as regional contenders on the baseball diamond.
The PLU seniors have contributed to 96 wins, a Northwest Conference championship and a run to the Div. III regional championship in 2015. It's a group that's welcomed teammates who have joined the team halfway through their eligibility. And – as result - it's a group that's seen players change positions and welcome new roles no matter how big or small they may be.
Their individual statistics are eye-opening.
Drew Oord is currently 10th in the NWC with a .365 batting average and fifth in conference with a .468 on-base percentage. Tyler Thompson has blasted 12 home runs and drove in 71 runs in 112 appearances. Kyler Blades – a transfer – has batted .295 with a sporty .377 OBP. Tanner Bogart has appeared in 67 games and is credited with three seasons with an OBP higher than .300 while Sean Rehon – another transfer – has appeared in 17 games with a .296 OBP.
On the mound, Cory Nelson, Garrett Brown and Ty Donahue have combined for 24 wins and 236 strikeouts. Their strikeouts have been major contributions to the teams' record-setting strikeout totals over the past three seasons (355 in 2014, 342 in 2013 and 324 in 2015). In 2014, they helped set a school record for lowest team ERA.
The statistics are fantastic, but it's the camaraderie, respect and selflessness that has garnered the respect of their coaches and fellow teammates.
"This senior group is unique for a couple reasons," PLU head coach Nolan Soete said. "Half of the group has been here for four years and half are transfers from other schools. You would never be able to tell the difference because they have all bought something to the program and they are all great teammates."
"When I arrived last year, I was welcomed no questions asked," Blades said. "It felt like I had been here for years."
"Being a part of PLU baseball is like a family," Rehon said. "We are all striving to complete our goal of making it to the World Series and keeping the winning tradition we have."
These seniors are team-first guys who have developed a team-wide bond that will extend beyond their playing days. And they've learned to appreciate the value of their PLU experiences in a variety of ways.
"It's been fantastic," Bogart said of his time at PLU. "I met my best friends here, have been challenged in school and have made connections that will help me in my career down the road."
"PLU has affected me a lot as a person as I've learned many life lessons that go beyond baseball," Brown said.
"I've learned so many things from my coaches and teammates that I'll keep with me forever," Thompson said. "When you're around these guys day in and day out, you form some really great bonds."
"I'm able to earn a degree with a prestigious university which will give me the opportunity to succeed in life after school," Rehon said.
"PLU has been a time for me to grow up and prove to myself that I can do a lot of things people may think I can't do," Nelson said. "I just have to push myself."
ON TAP FOR THE LUTES…
PLU looks to build off their successful 3-1 road trip to California as they host UPS Saturday and Sunday. Saturday will have a doubleheader starting at 12 p.m. Prior to Sunday's 12 p.m. start, a ceremony honoring the seniors will occur.