Written by Student Assistant Christian Bond
TACOMA, Wash. – Yet to lose a series this season, the 18th-ranked Pacific Lutheran University baseball team hosts Whitman College in a three game Northwest Conference series starting Saturday, with a non-league game following game three on Sunday.
Every four years, baseball's greats converge on their country's team to compete in the World Baseball Classic. PLU second baseman Landon Packard knows what it's like to compete against athletes from around the globe. When Packard was 14 years old, he got a chance to represent the United States in a baseball tournament in the Dominican Republic.
"It was an unreal experience," Packard said. "It just showed how fortunate we are to live in a place where we have opportunities. It was a great experience that taught me more about baseball and gave me a better perspective on life."
During the trip, Packard got a chance to explore Santo Domingo on a four wheeler. On the trip, they traveled through the poverty stricken city. People were living in houses made of mud. Kids ran in the street naked, trying to sell fruit for any kind of money.
The Dominican Republic is known for its love for baseball. That love for baseball drives kids to play on fields that people from the United States would consider less than ideal. It also forces kids to play with whatever equipment they can come up with. One player used a milk carton as a glove.
Packard's team lost in the championship game to another team from the United States.
"After the game, all of the Dominican kids came onto the field and we just took pictures together," Packard said. "Then we gave them all of our gear. You really have no idea how good we have it until you see how much other people struggle."
Packard's perspective has helped him take a confident approach to the plate. He sits fourth in conference with a .395 batting average, second in runs batted in with 28, tied for fifth with six doubles, tied for seventh with three home runs, and leads the league with three triples. Packard credits fellow seniors for the first place Lutes' (14-5, 12-3 NWC) fantastic start.
"We have great senior leadership," Packard stated. "We believe in each other and we have great chemistry. We know when we have to get our work done, and we know when we can have a little bit of fun. We are good at turning that switch on and off."
The switch goes on when Whitman comes to town. First pitch for both Saturday and Sunday is scheduled for noon.
Mar. 25 & 26: PLU vs. Whitman at PLU Field in Tacoma, Washington (12 p.m.)
Series History: The Lutes and Blues have met 111 times on the diamond since 1980 with PLU commanding an 88-23 edge in the series. The Lutes won two of three last season, including a 17-2 thrashing to open the series.
About the Blues: Whitman (11-12, 6-6 NWC) heads to Tacoma after a five game home stand, posting a 2-3 record in Walla Walla during that stretch.
The Blues capped off the homestand on Wednesday afternoon, earning a split against Whitworth. Whitman earned a 4-2 victory in the opener before suffering a 12-7 setback in an offensive slugfest in the nightcap.
Joseph Zimmer is the Blues' top hitter, boasting a .333 average at the plate with 15 RBIs while Adrian Vela has a team-high 16 RBIs and four home runs.
On the mound, Nick Johnson sports a 2.68 earned run average with 29 strikeouts in six appearances.