WEST LINN, Ore. – After pounding out a season-high 23 hits in a 15-1 first-game win, the George Fox University Bruins collected 10 more hits in the second game but stranded 11 runners and dropped a crushing 6-3 decision to the Lewis & Clark College Pioneers in a Northwest Conference baseball twinbill Saturday afternoon here at West Linn High School.
With that split against the NWC's last-place team, George Fox fell to 22-9 overall and 12-8 in league play, five games in the loss column behind first-place Linfield College. With only four NWC games left, the Bruins would need to sweep, including three at Linfield next week, and have Pacific Lutheran University take at least two of three from the league leaders the following week to have any hope at all of finishing first - not even counting what Pacific University and the University of Puget Sound, who are also ahead of the Bruins, might do. Lewis & Clark, meanwhile, improved to 5-28 overall and 3-17 in the conference.
In the first game, George Fox ace Brian Ranta threw seven innings of four-hit ball, fanning three with no walks, to improve to 8-2. The only run he allowed was a mammoth shot to right by Eliot Smith in the 7th, his second round-tripper of the season. Connor Harris finished up with two innings of one-hit ball.
Offensively, the Bruin attack torched three Pioneer hurlers, including starter Adam Rager (1-4) for nine extra-base hits, including seven doubles and two home runs. Dan Winterstein slugged Rager's first pitch of the game over the fence in left-center, his fourth home run of the season, and the rout was on.
The Bruins added six runs in the 3rd, the big blow a three-run double by Derek Aldrich, and knocked Rager out with four more in the 4th, including a three-run blast by Eric Gantenbein, his third of the year. After getting an unearned run in the 5th, the Bruins closed out their scoring with three in the 7th by members of the bench, equaling their largest run production of the season.
Winterstein and Zac Israel had three hits apiece for the Bruins, while Gantenbein, Aldrich, Jay Kirchhofer, Derek Blankenship, and Mitch Main had two each. Aldrich and Israel both had two doubles, while Winterstein, Main, and Zach Hegelmeyer each had one. Smith was the only Pioneer with two hits, also collecting a double.
In the second game, Mike Hathaway (1-4) picked up his first win of the season while benefitting from three solo home runs by his offense. The Pios' right-hander, working at a rapid pace, did not surrender a hit until Aldrich led off the last of the 5th with a ground single to left, retiring 10 in a row to that point. From then on, he worked out of trouble constantly as the Bruins hit the ball well, producing 10 hits, but stranding 11 as they often hit solid shots right at Pioneer fielders.
Tucker Laurence, who had not homered all year, gave the Pios a 1-0 lead against Clay Gartner (2-3) with a line shot over the fence in deepest right-center field in the 2nd. In the 4th, the Pios loaded the bases with none out on singles by Geoff Wertz and Michael Ball and a hit-by-pitch against Laurence, and Wertz scored as Kirchhofer made a diving stab of Smith's sharp grounder over the first-base bag and got the out.
The Bruins cut the deficit in half in the 5th after Aldrich broke up the no-hitter with his single. After a sacrifice, Israel reached on a fielder's choice to short when Aldrich was caught in a rundown, and a wild pitch moved him to second. Kirchhofer and Blankenship singled to get Israel home, but the Bruins left the bases loaded.
Laurence and Smith hit back-to-back home runs in the 6th to boost the Pioneer lead back to 4-1, but the Bruins chipped away with single runs in the 7th and 8th innings. Taylor Hunter singled in Kirchhofer in the 7th, and Kirchhofer's sacrifice pop fly to second on which Parker Dane made a nice off-balance catch plated Gantenbein in the 8th. However, the Bruins left two more runners on in each inning.
The Pios added two big insurance runs with two out in the top of the 9th on a single by Dane and a double by Andrew Frisina.
In the last of the 9th, Winterstein and Sam Stahl singled with one away, and Ball came in from short to replace Hathaway. With the tying run at the plate, he notched his second save of the season by getting Gantenbein to fly to right, the 15th out of the game by the Bruins in the air, and fanning Aldrich.
Each team had 10 hits, with Laurence and Corey Davis getting two each for the Pioneers, and Kirchhofer two safeties for the Bruins.
NEXT: The Bruins and Pioneers will conclude their three-game series Sunday at West Linn with a single game at 1:00 p.m. Seven graduating Bruin seniors - Aldrich, Winterstein, Nate Hickok, Stahl, Kirchhofer, Gantenbein, and Andrew Snyder - will be honored in pre-game ceremonies.