Written by Student Assistant Sarah Cornell-Maier
TACOMA, Wash. – The Pacific Lutheran University baseball team is preparing to fire up the bats heading into the final home series of the regular season, facing off against nationally-ranked California Lutheran University in a three-game non-conference series. The Lutes and Kingsmen will play two on Friday afternoon before finishing the series on Saturday.
This weekend's competition will be the last home series for the Lutes (19-10, 17-7 Northwest Conference), and the Pacific Lutheran team will be recognizing its seniors on Saturday afternoon for Senior Knight.
With 11 seniors leaving the team at the end of this year, the Lutes will have a lot to live up to in the years to come. The 2017 Lute seniors won the Northwest Conference title in 2015, the NWC Tournament title last season, and have made two trips to the NCAA Division III Regional Tournament. PLU has enjoyed a 105-57 record on the diamond during that stretch, including an impressive 66-32 mark in NWC play.
"This will probably be the last opportunity for this group of seniors to play on their home field and they should really enjoy it," said Head Coach Nolan Soete. "They have been to two straight regionals and will have the opportunity to play for another playoff berth next week. I really can't say enough about this senior class. It has been an absolute pleasure coaching this group."
Senior Brett Johnson has played for the Lutes for the last three seasons, appearing in 93 total games for the Lutes, with 311 at bats and 85 hits along with an extraordinarily consistent glove, boasting a .987 fielding percentage.
Throughout his experience at PLU, Johnson has come to appreciate the true closeness that is associated with being a Lute.
"Being a senior on this team means being a part of the most successful class in the program's history, but more importantly, to be surrounded by a bunch of young men who are great natural leaders and are always challenging one another to be better and strive for improvement," said Johnson.
Johnson is part of an incredible senior class and is joined by fellow seniors Casey Dawes, Kory VanderStaay, Jacob Clements, Ben Welch, Jacob Gleichman, Frank Airey, Gunner Sonnenfeld, Tanner Williams, Landon Packard, and Lee Larson.
"Honestly, its been one heck of an experience," said Larson. "Coming in as a transfer you're not sure what to expect, but the atmosphere around the team is to compete every day and to win. I couldn't have asked for anything better. I'm going to miss being around the guys on the team and the relationships that I've built with everyone."
Dawes echoed both Johnson and Larson's comments on the incredible bond the team has built over the years.
"Being a member of the PLU baseball team has been an absolute blast the last four years. The opportunity to continue to play this great game every day is something that is hard to put into words and my teammates are what make it awesome," said Casey Dawes. "These guys work hard day in and day out and make every moment enjoyable. It's a great group to be a part of and I love stepping on the diamond with these guys every day. I will miss the team aspect the most. The first day I showed up on campus I had a group of 35 guys I was a part of, and I've spent my entire time at PLU surrounded by my teammates. We are always behind each other. The memories I share with these guys on and off the field will last a lifetime and I will miss being around them everyday."
Apr. 14 & 15: PLU vs. California Lutheran at PLU Field in Tacoma, Washington (11 a.m. Friday, 12 p.m. Saturday)
Series History: The Lutes and Kingsmen have met on eight occasions with Cal Lu enjoying a slim 3-4-1 edge in the series. The two teams met twice last season. The Lutes fell 14-6 to the host Kingsmen back on Mar. 31 but got the last laugh in the NCAA Tournament, downing Cal Lu 8-6 on May 19 in the West Regional in Spokane, Washington.
About the Kingsmen: 12th-ranked Cal Lu (21-6, 13-5 Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) heads north riding a 14-game win streak. The Kingsmen earned a three-game sweep of SCIAC rival Whittier College last weekend, securing a 13-3 victory to open the series before following up with 5-1 and 7-4 wins. Cal Lutheran last tasted defeat on Mar. 11, falling 8-6 to University of Redlands in game two of a SCIAC doubleheader.
Max Weinstein is the top hitter for the Kingsmen, hitting .388 on the season with 20 RBIs. Jimmy Jauregui has a team-leading 11 doubles on the season, while Gabe Gunter has racked up 40 hits for the Kingsmen.
Pitcher Troy Frazier has been the powerhouse on the mound for the Kingsmen, pitching 29.2 innings, earning 25 strikeouts and only accruing a 1.82 earned run average on the season.