By Ben • Ben Schorzman • 

Wet welcome for team bus a great moment

The rain was relentless, but the group of 50 or so students and fans that stood out Wednesday morning on the edges of SE Stadium Street didn’t seem to notice. Their attention was focused on the flashing blue and red lights of a McMinnville Police vehicle and the large white charter bus it was leading down the pavement.

Chants of “Linfield! Wildcats!” merged with the sound of rain hitting the ground and surrounding cars. Yells and cheers continued as the bus pulled to a stop in front of Roy Helser Field.

At exactly 1:04 a.m. Wednesday, the NCAA Division III national champion Linfield Wildcats stepped off the team bus. Less than 12 hours before, Linfield defeated Southern Maine 4-1 in the national championship final, scoring four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. National Pitcher of the Year Chris Haddeland pitched his eighth complete game of the season and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Pitcher. When the final out of the game was recorded — an easy groundball to short stop Corey VanDomelen — catcher Kyle Chamberlain rushed Haddeland, who lifted his catcher off the ground. Then the two were crushed at the bottom of the inevitable dog pile.

“Words can’t express how awesome that was,” Linfield senior Tim Wilson said.

By 1 a.m. Wednesday, the Wildcats were exhausted. They mustered smiles and words of thanks to the mass of wet people who came to welcome them home, but they quietly dispersed. Some still had finals to take care of. Linfield College President Dr. Thomas Hellie said a few players even had 8 a.m. Wednesday finals their professors wouldn’t let them out of. After Haddeland won the first game of the championship tournament Friday vs. Ithaca, Hellie said Haddeland got an email from one of his professors:

“It said, ‘Congrats on the win. You still owe me that paper.”

Some players even took finals while in Wisconsin. Between games, they’d be in their hotel rooms studying, writing papers or taking tests. Then they would get back on the baseball diamond and continue to roll.

There are so many positive things to say about the 2013 Linfield baseball team. In one way, it’s a redemption story. Linfield was left out of the postseason last year but still had to host a regional.This year, the Wildcats weren’t even ranked to start the season, but by week nine they were No. 1 and stayed there the rest of the way.

Just as important to what Linfield did on the field, though, is a moment from April 21 that showed exactly what kind of character this team had. After sweeping George Fox to clinch the Northwest Conference championship, every player and coach had his head shaved to raise money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and curing childhood cancer. They might have been hot on the trial of a national championship, but these Wildcats decided to take a moment to step back and appreciate their position.

“The one thing (Brosius) stressed this year is have fun playing,” Wilson said. “Ultimately it’s a game, and why not enjoy it?”

Clearly, the Wildcats did.

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