Give them Helser
A pair of aces dueled to the last pitch, but Kramer Lindell pulled a trump card from his short sleeve.
The Linfield center fielder stepped up to bat in the fourth inning of the Wildcats’ NCAA Division III McMinnville Regional playoff game against LeTourneau University of Longview, Texas. YellowJackets starter Cody Whitley offered Lindell one ball and two strikes before his fourth pitch.
Lindell smacked it over the left field fence for his second home run of the season.
“He got me in a two-strike (count) and I was trying to sit back,” Lindell said. “He made a mistake – a curveball down the middle of the plate. I took advantage of it.”
The home run was one of 10 hits by regional No. 1 seed Linfield and No. 6 seed LeTourneau, but compared with the other nine in the context of the Wildcats’ 1-0 victory Wednesday afternoon at Roy Helser Field in McMinnville, it was the most impactful by an exponential factor.
For Linfield ace Chris Haddeland, the solo shot was “a little bit of a sigh of relief.”
Haddeland, the junior and McMinnville High School alumnus, limited the YellowJackets to four hits and one walk in a complete-game effort. Haddeland needed 86 pitches to lower his earned-run average from 1.08 – seventh in all of Division III – to 0.99.
“They were an aggressive team,” Haddeland said. “I just wanted to throw strikes and mix my pitches.”
Haddeland, a 2014 all-Northwest Conference first-team selection, improved his record on the year to 11-1. His first loss of the season came on April 18, a 4-1 decision against George Fox in which Haddeland threw a complete game but allowed eight hits. He had pitched well toward the end of the season, but a mechanical error was hampering his performance.
“My arm slot kind of dropped as the year progressed,” Haddeland said.
As Haddeland kept his arm slot high and kept LeTourneau (32-14) off balance, Whitley was keeping the Wildcats (34-7) off base.
Linfield right fielder Nick Fisher and catcher Jake Wylie hit back-to-back singles in the first inning but failed to advance. Fisher added a double in the fourth inning and Jo Carroll doubled in the seventh as part of a 2-for-3 day; neither Wildcat advanced past second base.
“Before (Whitley) settled in we had a couple of chances (to score runs),” Brosius said. “We were hoping we’d have more opportunities. He didn’t give us more.”
Defense keyed both pitchers’ success. The YellowJackets’ outfield of Sean Sellers, Caleb Pritchett and Chris Bertram combined on nine of the 24 putouts, and two line drives off Linfield bats were caught.
“It wasn’t plays that were particularly exceptional – we were hitting it where they were,” Fisher said.
Linfield shortstop Corey VanDomelen leaped into the air to snag a line drive that ended the fourth inning and prevented Sellers, standing on second base, from scoring. A 3-6-3 double play – first baseman Clayton Truex to VanDomelen and back to Truex – in the third inning quashed another rally attempt.
Haddeland prevented a LeTourneau runner on third base from scoring in the sixth inning, but YellowJackets first baseman Garrett Methvin singled to lead off the seventh inning. Ryan Bertram popped out, and LeTourneau catcher Dillon Yates grounded to Linfield second baseman Kenny Johnson.
Johnson turned a double play with VanDomelen and Truex, giving the Wildcats an emotional lift in the later innings.
“You’ve got six outs to get a run off Haddy – it’s not going to happen, usually,” Lindell said.
The 775 fans in attendance, bearing down in the baking sun, saw no such thing.
The Wildcats faced Trinity (Tex.) on Thursday afternoon in their second McMinnville Regional contest. Linfield’s opponent for today’s game had not been determined at press time.
Cal Lutheran 2, Illinois Wesleyan 1
Spencer DuBois of Cal Lutheran hit an RBI single to plate Gabe Gunter for the go-ahead run of the eighth inning as the No. 2 Kingsmen defeated the No. 5 Titans in McMinnville Regional play Wednesday afternoon.
Cal Lu starting pitcher Jake Petersen allowed four hits while striking out six to earn the complete-game victory. Petersen also went 2-for-4 from the plate for the Kingsmen (35-8).
Adam Glogovsky (2-for-4) scored the only run for Illinois Wesleyan (25-19) in the seventh inning after doubling to open the frame. He came home on a sacrifice fly by Titans catcher Pat Mollo.
Wisc.-Stevens Point 3, Trinity (Texas) 2
Cam Seidl allowed five hits and two runs in six innings pitched and Cody Hanke hit the go-ahead RBI double in the seventh inning as the No. 4 Pointers triumphed over the No. 3 Tigers in McMinnville Regional play Wednesday night.
Casey Barnes went 2-for-3 with an RBI single for Wisconsin-Stevens Point (30-11). Riley Spetz and Bobby Gregorich also had base hits for the Pointers.
Trinity shortstop Christian Muscarello went 3-for-4 with a double and a run scored. Catcher Chris Bianchi doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning to keep the Tigers (33-9) close.