Wind blows Wildcats’ way once
Welcome back, baseball.
The NCAA Division III Linfield Wildcats treated a bundled-up crowd of 200 spectators to a doubleheader Saturday afternoon against the Division II Western Oregon Wolves at Roy Helser Field, Linfield’s first two home games of the 2014 season. The Wildcats shut out the Wolves in the first game, 6-0, but Western Oregon captured a 5-0 victory in the second game.
Linfield starting pitcher Chris Haddeland and reliever Joseph Stevick allowed two hits in the first game. Haddeland recorded six strikeouts in his second win of the season (2-0); he and Stevick combined to walk four batters.
“The conditions today weren’t great for offense,” Wildcats coach Scott Brosius said. “The guys did a good job throwing strikes.”
It was a true Opening Day in the Pacific Northwest: overcast and cool, with a driving wind from right field that swallowed any fly ball in the immediate vicinity.
“We were trying to hit hard ground balls, low line drives,” Linfield catcher Jake Wylie said.
Neither team scored in the first four innings of the first game before the Wildcats (5-1) strung together four hits and two walks in the fifth inning. Wylie singled in left fielder Finn McMichael for the game’s first run; Linfield first basemen Clayton Truex reached first base on a shortstop error that allowed shortstop Corey VanDomelen to cross the plate.
Western Oregon pitcher Matt Minnich walked Kramer Lindell to load the bases for Wildcats junior Jo Carroll, the designated hitter. Carroll cracked a line drive along the left-field foul line, a bases-clearing three-run double.
Linfield added to its cushion with an RBI single in the seventh inning from shortstop Eric Lawson, bringing in Truex. Lawson and VanDomelen each went 2-for-4 in the first game against the Wolves, with Wylie going 2-for-5.
In the second game, WOU (5-3) clamped down on the Wildcats with five pitchers – McMinnville High graduate Zev Egli, Clark McKitrick, Spencer Watkins, Christian Morris, and Kody Stone – combining on a three-hit shutout. (Watkins earned the win, boosting his record to 1-2.) The Wolves’ infield also turned three double plays on Linfield, helping its pitchers get out of potential jams quickly.
“The second game, they brought in guys that threw a little harder, had a little better stuff,” Wylie said. “We hit balls hard. They just didn’t go our way.”
Aaron Thomassen relieved Wildcats starter Zach Brandon in the sixth inning and issued three walks, leading to two runs. WOU catcher Caleb Falck plated Daniel McNabb on a sacrifice fly, and third baseman Garrett Harpole scored on a wild throw during the play.
Wolves designated hitter Tim Rausch belted a two-run home run off Thomassen (1-1, losing pitcher) in the seventh inning, and McNabb hit an RBI single off Zach Manley in the ninth inning to provide further cushion. Manley had not pitched at Roy Helser Field since 2012 after spending much of the 2013 season recovering from arm surgery.
Lawson went 2-for-4 against WOU in the second game, the only Wildcat with multiple hits. Truex went 1-for-4.
Linfield hosts Corban on Feb. 21 at 5 p.m., the third of five consecutive home games.