PARKLAND, Wash. – After collecting only four hits in a 6-5 first-game loss, the George Fox University Bruins used two home runs by Danny Clifford and one by Zach Rapacz for an 8-0 second-game win over the Pacific Lutheran University Lutes in a Northwest Conference baseball twinbill Saturday afternoon here at the PLU baseball field.
George Fox, ranked 17th in the Collegiate Baseball / ABCA poll and 19th in the D3baseball.com poll, is now 24-7 overall and 14-6 in conference play. Pacific Lutheran stands at 17-13 overall and 9-7 in the NWC.
Game 1 - at Pacific Lutheran 6, George Fox 5
Hitting only .227 coming in, the pesky Lutes peppered the Bruins with 17 hits in the opener while holding the .331-hitting Bruins to only four hits and scored the winning run on an error in the last of the 9th.
Held hitless through the first three innings by Trevor Lubking, the national strikeout leader who fanned nine to boost his total to 90 but walked five in seven innings of work, the Bruins finally got on the board against the southpaw in the top of the 3rd. Josh Rapacz walked and scored on Derek Dixon's triple to right-center, and Zac Israel delivered Dixon with a sacrifice fly to center.
The Lutes ended the Bruins' string of scoreless innings pitched at 43.1 innings in the bottom of the 4th against Clay Gartner, who was touched for nine hits and four runs in only 3.2 innings. Collin Nilson led off with a double and scored on Kory Vanderstaay's one-out single up the middle. Tanner Williams beat out an infield single, and after a pop out, Ben Welch, Alec Beal, and Drew Oord all hit RBI singles.
The Bruins tied it in the 5th when Matthew Zeller bunted for a hit, Danny Clifford walked, and Dixon delivered a two-out, two-run double to left-center. PLU regained the lead in the 7th against reliever Connor Harris on singles by Nilson, Vanderstaay, and Nicholas Hall, but again the Bruins knotted it, this time in the 8th against closer A.J. Konopaski, the national leader in saves with 10. Zach Rapacz was hit by a pitch with two out and came all the way around on Israel's double to center.
The Lutes got the winning run in the 9th when Vanderstaay led off with a single, was sacrificed to second, and scored on pinch-hitter Landon Packard's grounder up the middle which second baseman Derek Blankenship got to, but the throw to first was mishandled by Dixon. The tough-luck loss went to Sean Eberhardt (2-2), while Konopaski (1-0) got the win.
Dixon was the only Bruin with two hits. Oord led PLU with four hits, Nilson and Vanderstaay had three each, and Beal added two.
Game 2 - George Fox 8, at Pacific Lutheran 0
Ian Buckles (6-0) was the beneficiary of the Bruins' offensive outburst in the nightcap, combining with Christian Jarnigan to throw the Bruins' nation-leading 10th shutout of the season. Buckles went eight innings, allowing five hits with eight strikeouts and four walks. He escaped a major jam in the 2nd after Nilson walked and Wildung singled him to third with none out by striking out Vanderstaay and Williams swinging and Maika'i Derouin looking. Jarnigan fanned two in a 1-2-3 9th.
Solo home runs by Clifford in the 1st and Zach Rapacz in the 2nd put the Bruins in front against PLU starter Chris Bishop (3-5). It was Clifford's sixth of the season and the third for Rapacz. They added an unearned run in the 6th as Josh Rapacz reached on an error at short, Dixon and Zach Rapacz singled to load the bases, and Israel hit a fly to right that was dropped but resulted in a force out at second as Josh Rapacz scored.
The Bruins doubled their lead to 6-0 in the 7th when Kadyn Nannini singled, Blankenship walked, and Clifford greeted reliever Jake Otness with his seventh home run to right-center. Josh Rapacz doubled in Blankenship and Clifford in the 8th to close out the Bruin scoring against Cory Nelson.
Clifford finished with three of the Bruins' 10 hits, while Dixon, Zach Rapacz, and Nannini had two hits apiece.
NEXT: The Bruins and Lutes will conclude their three-game series Sunday with a single game at 12:00 noon. Tom Zarosinski will toe the hill for the Bruins riding a string of 23 consecutive scoreless innings pitched, which is closing in on the Bruin record of 26.2 in a row by southpaw Brandon Rupp in 2005.