Linfield baseball breaks out brooms
Courtesy of Linfield sports information
Working its way through the entire lineup and scoring three times before a single inning passed at Roy Helser Field, No. 1 Linfield got out to a hot start and never looked back on its way to a 6-1, Northwest Conference sweep-clinching victory over longtime rival Pacific Lutheran on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
Five straight Wildcats supplied hits, a sixth reached on a fielder's choice and a seventh drew a walk as Linfield jumped on PLU starting pitcher Derrick Mahlum early, scoring twice before the Lute defense recorded an out.’Corey VanDomelen and Kramer Lindell tallied two runs apiece and Nick Fisher drove in a pair of runs on a single and solo homer to pace the Wildcat offense.
Aaron Thomassen matched a season high with seven strikeouts as part of a scoreless six-inning performance to get the win on the mound.
With the victory, the 'Cats (24-3, 17-1 NWC) gained their sixth conference series win, including five sweeps, and dropped the Lutes (16-12, 8-6) even further back in the team standings with three weekends left to play on the conference calendar.
In the first, VanDomelen sparked the offense with a double to the left-field corner, and scored on some aggressive baserunning when Fisher sent a deep single to left. Linfield's leadoff man churned around third and was waved home by third base coach Jarvis Gomes, and though PLU catcher Curtis Wildung was in position for the tag, the throw from left fielder Alec Beal was errant and VanDomelen easily slipped past to touch home.
Jake Wylie dropped a single into the infield on a check swing, and made his way to first quickly enough that shortstop Ben Welch didn't even bother making the throw. Clayton Truex shot a line drive to left, as did Lindell, as the Wildcats scored Fisher and kept the bases loaded.
The Lutes finally recorded an out, picking up an infield chopper from Jo Carroll for the force at home, but Mahlum walked Nate McClellan to push another Wildcat run across.
Thomassen, meanwhile retired the first seven Lutes he faced before surrendering a double to Wildung in the third. Linfield's starter followed up with consecutive strikeouts, however, to keep out of harm's way.
Lindell restarted the offense in the third with a single deep to left. After stealing second, the Wildcat center fielder advanced to third on a passed ball before scoring on Carroll's attempted steal at second. The throw from behind the plate went wild, allowing Carroll to move to the far corner, putting him in prime position to score on a passed ball during the next at-bat.
Linfield put two more runners on in the fourth when senior Kenny Johnson drew a walk and VanDomelen drew contact for difficult, high-bouncing infield chopper. But Mahlum set up three consecutive outs to escape the troublesome situation.
Thomassen gave the Lutes a free baserunner when he nailed Welch in the shoulder to open the sixth, but Eric Lawson leapt to grab Tyler Thompson's line drive before it entered the outfield, Carroll caught a routine fly in left and VanDomelen zipped Collin Nilson's grounder to first for three consecutive outs.
Fisher extended the spread to six runs with a solo shot over the left-field fence in the bottom of the sixth.
PLU spoiled Linfield's bid for the shutout in the eighth when Wildung reached on an error and pinch hitter Kort Skoda helped put runners on the corners with a single. Both came on tough plays for the Wildcat infield, but Kekoa Kaulukukui made a great diving stop to prevent Skoda's grounder from entering the grass. Wildung advanced to third on the play, and scored on a fielder's choice before Joseph Stevick set up Beal for a fly out to Lindell in center field to end the inning.
Cody Walker yielded a single and advanced a runner to second on a balk before settling in and closing out the ninth with two groundouts and a strikeout to deny the Lutes any serious chance of a comeback.
Linfield plays host to Pomona-Pitzer of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in a three-game set beginning with a Saturday noon doubleheader.