McMINNVILLE, Ore. – It was better late than never for Pacific Lutheran as the Lutes tied it with a run in the eighth and scored three in the ninth to claim a 6-3 win over fourth-ranked Linfield to pick up PLU's first series win against the Wildcats since 2006 Sunday afternoon at Roy Helser Field.
Pacific Lutheran had not defeated Linfield twice in a season since 2009, as the Lutes rallied back from a 3-0 loss in the series opener Saturday to earn a pair of comeback wins and claim an early edge in the NWC race. PLU improves to 8-3 overall and 2-1 in conference play, while Linfield falls to 8-3 overall and 1-2 in the NWC.
Kyle Rossman started on the mound for the Lutes and limited the Wildcats to two earned runs on seven hits in six innings pitched, but PLU's four runs in the final two innings meant he did not factor into the decision. Instead Jake Otness earned the win after throwing two shutout innings in relief, while AJ Konopaski extended his program-record career saves total to 23 with his second consecutive save.
Riley Newman started and threw only 2.2 innings for Linfield, allowing one run on six hits before handing off to Joseph Stevick. Stevick threw 4.1 innings, allowing one run on three hits. Cody Walker took the loss after giving up four runs – three earned – in only 1.2 innings, and Garrett Miller came in to get the final out for the Wildcats.
Collin Nilson was nearly perfect at the plate, coming up with four hits in five at bats – including a pair of doubles – and driving in four of the Lutes' six runs. Jacob Clements scored three of those runs to go with a double for the Lutes. Tyler Thompson, Drew Oord and Curtis Wildung all tallied a pair of hits in the win, with Wildung hitting his first home of the season in the top of the ninth. Eric Lawson led Linfield with three hits and two runs batted in, while Jo Carroll added a pair of hits in four at bats.
PLU scored first, picking up a two-out run in the top of the first inning. Clements doubled down the left field line and came in to score on Nilson's first single of the day. Linfield scored the next three, tying it up in the second inning on a bases-loaded fielder's choice and combining three hits with a PLU error to score two more in the bottom of the fourth.
Pacific Lutheran got one back in the top of the fifth, as Nilson's two-out double scored Clements from first. The Lutes tied it in the top of the eighth with another two-out rally. Jacob Bockelie pinch hit and reached first after being hit by a pitch. Bo Pearson ran for Bockelie and scored from first on Oord's game-tying double.
The Lutes scored the eventual game-winning run with one out in the top of the ninth when Wildung fouled off a full-count pitch before hitting his first home run of the season. PLU added two more insurance runs in the inning. Ben Welch was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a passed ball to set up Connor Cantu for an intentional walk. Clements reached on his second fielder's choice of the day to put runners at the corners with two outs, and Nilson again came through with a two-out double to bring them both home for the 6-3 lead.
One day after setting a new PLU program record for career saves, Konopaski came back in to close out the series win for the Lutes. Linfield threatened, as Lawson hit a one-out double and Corey VanDomelen walked to put the tying run at the plate for the Wildcats' middle-of-the-order hitters. But Konopaski induced a pair of fly balls to right field to seal his third save of the season.
Pacific Lutheran hosts Pacific next weekend in the Lutes' 2015 home-opening series. The teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday beginning at 11 a.m. before finishing the series Sunday at 12 p.m.