GEORGE FOX 4, PAC LUTHERAN 3: Bruins Score in 9th to Edge Lutes in NWC Opener
NEWBERG, Ore. – Eric Gantenbein singled in Taylor Hunter from second base with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving the George Fox University Bruins a thrilling 4-3 win over the Pacific Lutheran University Lutes in the Northwest Conference baseball opener for both teams Saturday afternoon here at Morse Field.
The game began as a pitching duel between right-handed aces Brian Ranta (4-0) of George Fox, who entered the game with a 2.14 ERA and 23 strikeouts, and Max Beatty of PLU, who had not allowed an earned run in 14 innings all season. The Bruins finally picked up the first earned run scored off Beatty when they took a 1-0 lead in the third, Hunter singling up the middle with two out, stealing second, and scoring on a single to center by Sam Stahl.
The Lutes answered with a pair of unearned runs in the fourth. Jaron Iwakami singled and Brock Gates walked with one out, and both moved up on a ground out to second. Iwakami scored when Hunter, unable to get solid footing on the damp infield dirt, threw wide to first on Ryan Aratani's grounder to short, and Gates came in when Stahl at third kicked Dan Johansen's grounder.
The hurlers kept the hitters at bay from that point on. Ranta allowed only three hits through eight, fanning four and walking only one, while Beatty surrendered six hits, with six strikeouts and two walks, until the Bruins came up in the eighth. After getting the first two batters out, Derek Aldrich took Beatty deep to left for a game-tying home run, his first of the season.
Josh Rapacz was then hit by a pitch for the second time in the game and Todd Nagamine walked, setting up a bizarre play that gave the home team the lead. Nagamine was trapped off first by a quick throw from catcher Zack Halverson, and while he occupied the PLU defense in a rundown, Rapacz advanced to third and continued on when the Lutes reacted too slowly to his move, not even throwing home. PLU then missed Nagamine racing to second as well.
Down 3-2, the Lutes rallied against Ranta in the ninth as Aratani led off with a single, was sacrificed to second, and scored on Corey Moore's single to center. Moore was caught stealing by Rapacz, a critical play that loomed large when Halverson followed with a double, but Ranta escaped further damage by getting Jacob Hoffman to ground out.
Johansen (0-1) replaced Beatty for the bottom of the ninth and retired Nate Hickok and Dan Winterstein on strikeouts before Hunter singled to center. Stahl hit a slow roller to the right of the mound, but Johansen's throw to first was dropped by Gates, and Gantenbein took advance of the miscue to line a single to center as Hunter easily scored the winning run.
Gantenbein had three of the Bruins' nine hits, while Hunter and Stahl had two apiece. The Bruin defense turned in 21 assists as Ranta got 21 outs on ground balls and only one in the air. Halverson had half of the PLU hits with three.
NEXT: George Fox (10-1, NWC 1-0) and Pacific Lutheran (4-6, NWC 0-1) will try to complete their three-game series, if the weather will cooperate, with a doubleheader Sunday at 11:00 a.m.