Written by Student Assistant Christian Bond
TACOMA, Wash. – After a midweek win over crosstown rival University of Puget Sound, the Pacific Lutheran University baseball team travels to Oregon to take on Pacific University in a three-game Northwest Conference series. On Saturday, a doubleheader is played with game one starting at noon. The series finale takes place on Sunday with first pitch scheduled for noon.
Jacob Bockelie was the hero in game two of PLU's three-game series against conference rival Linfield College last weekend. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Bockelie obliterated a 3-1 fastball, turning it into a three-run walkoff home run. The longball gave the Lutes (6-8, 4-2 NWC) a 6-3 win over the Wildcats. Lost in the drama of the games finish, is the performance of two freshman pitchers in Justin Armbruester and Alex Gregory.
"They are both good kids," head coach Nolan Soete said. "They're very talented freshmen and they both play the game the right way. Alex and Justin work hard to consistently improve and they have done a great job of competing this year."
Armbruester was magnificent in his start against the Wildcats. Armbruester slung 6 1/3 innings, striking out six batters, allowing just two hits. Gregory jumped on the bump in relief, going the final 2 2/3 innings. He was an escape artist, as the leadoff batter reached base in every inning Gregory appeared in.
"I had to bear down and make sure that they didn't score," Gregory said. "It was a little nerve racking at times, but at the same time, I just had to do my job."
Armbruester and Gregory had one thing in common before arriving on campus at PLU last fall. Both are products of the 3A Metro League. Armbruester attended Eastside Catholic High School, while Gregory was a Garfield High School Bulldog. They vaguely knew each other before becoming teammates. Armbruester recalled that Gregory roped a double off of him in an encounter between the Crusaders and the Bulldogs.
"I knew Alex before we came down here because he was another arm in the metro league," Armbruester said. "When I saw that he was going to PLU, I was like 'alright, we got another good arm.' I got in contact with him before I came down here. Now we are here, beating teams like Linfield."
Arbruester has been electric for the Lutes in four games started. In 18 1/3 innings of work, Armbruester has thrown to the tune of a 3.86 earned run average, striking out 19 batters along the way. Gregory has been just as good in a relief role. He's pitched 14 1/3 innings in four games, throwing a 3.77 ERA with 10 strikeouts.
Armbruester, Gregory and the rest of the PLU baseball team look to keep the wins coming this weekend in Forest Grove against the host Boxers.
Mar. 10: PLU vs. Pacific (DH) in Forest Grove, Oregon (12 p.m.)
Mar. 11: PLU vs. Pacific in Forest Grove, Oregon (12 p.m.)
Series History: PLU holds the advantage all-time against Pacific, going 70-49 since 1980. In 2017, the Lutes went 4-1 in five games against the Boxers. The team's met in the preseason Northwest Conference Tournament, with the Boxers scoring three runs in seventh and eighth, landing on top of the Lutes 10-7 on Feb. 9.
About the Boxers: Pacific (8-9, 4-5) was picked seventh in the NWC Preseason Coaches' Poll and enters the weekend looking to snap a four-game slide after getting swept last weekend against George Fox University.
Dylan Wright is the Boxers' leader at the plate, boasting a .365 batting average with 18 RBIs and nine extra base hits while Derek Legeza owns a .302 average with four doubles while drawing 13 walks on the season. on the mound, Cole Kanazawa had been lights out as a reliever owning a 1.15 earned run average with 19 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings of work with a 2-2 record and four saves. Casey Brown is the starter that's seen the most work, logging 29 innings on the hill with a 3.41 ERA.