Pacific Lutheran Sweeps Doubleheader from Bearcats

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

TACOMA, WASH. -- Pacific Lutheran University continued its strong play in Northwest Conference action, as the Lutes swept a doubleheader from visiting Willamette University, 17-6 and 8-4, on Saturday, March 21 at PLU Field. The Lutes improved to 12-5 overall and to 8-2 in the NWC. Willamette moved to 5-9 overall, 3-5 in the NWC.

PLU holds third place in the NWC standings behind George Fox University, 10-0, and Linfield College, 12-2. The Lutes' only conference losses came when they split a four-game series at Linfield on Feb. 28 and March 1.

In the first game, the Lutes rallied from an early 4-0 deficit to build a 14-6 lead after five innings. Pacific Lutheran finished the game with 15 hits and benefited from six errors by the Bearcats.

Willamette provided a solid challenge in the second game and trailed by a single run, 5-4, in the middle of the seventh inning. PLU scored three times in the bottom of the stanza, but Willamette threatened to rally in the ninth inning, when the 'Cats got runners to first and second with one out.

PLU reliever Paul DiPietro forced a fielder's choice and a ground out to end the game. DiPietro recorded his first save of the season.

The doubleheader featured four home runs -- two by each team. Mitchell Rowan (Fr., RF, Cotati, CA/Rancho Cotate HS) of Willamette belted a three-run homer in the first inning of the first game. T.C. Lee (So., LF, Lafayette, CA/Acalanes HS) hit a two-run homer for WU in the sixth inning of the second game to pull the 'Cats within 5-3.

For PLU, both home runs were in the first game. Geoff Gabler blasted a two-run homer in the second inning and Ben Shively connected for a three-run shot in the fifth.

Rowan's home run and an RBI single by Jack McGee (Sr., P/3B, Hillsborough, CA/St. Ignatius HS) earlier in the first inning staked Willamette to a 4-0 lead in the first game. PLU countered with three runs in the bottom of the inning on a sacrifice fly by Kris Hansen and a two-run double by Brandon Sales.

The Lutes pulled into the lead in the second inning, when Jordan Post hit a two-run double to left center prior to Gabler's two-run homer. Sales drove in the fifth run with a single to left.

PLU added a run in the third stanza for a 9-4 lead and Willamette tallied two runs in the fourth. Rowan singled to open the inning and scored on a triple by Lee. Michael Rierson (Jr., CF, Salem, OR/Sprague HS) drove in Lee with a sacrifice fly to right field.

The Lutes plated five runs in the fifth inning to take control. Sales hit a double and Sammy Davis was hit by a pitch one out later. Shively's three-run homer followed to give PLU a 12-6 advantage. Josh Takayoshi and Hansen scored later in the inning.

Willamette nearly pulled off a comeback in the second game, despite facing an undefeated starter in PLU's Robert Bleecker.

Pacific Lutheran scored first with two outs in the second, when Davis sent a two-run double into center field. The Bearcats answered with a run in the next half inning, as David Tufo (Sr., 3B, San Bruno, CA/Burlingame HS) reached base on a fielder's choice, moved to third on a double by Doug Bloom (So., SS, Salem, OR/South Salem HS) and scored on a sac fly by Rowan.

Three runs in the fifth inning extended PLU's margin to 5-1. Hansen doubled and Post singled before Gabler earned an RBI with a sacrifice fly to right field. The final two runs of the frame scored on a single by Carl Benton.

Lee's two-run homer in the sixth cut the Bearcats' deficit to 5-3. McGee, who singled with one out, scored on the play.

WU pulled within one run in the top of the seventh, as Dan Maslanik (Sr., C, Boulder, CO/Fairview HS) walked and later crossed the plate on a fielder's choice with the bases loaded. Bleecker left the game after ending the threat with a strikeout, forcing Willamette to strand runners at first and third.

Three singles and two errors led to three unearned runs for PLU in the bottom of the seventh. Center fielder Ryan Aratani reached base on a single and scored the first run when a sacrifice fly by Sales was dropped in the outfield. The other two runs scored on a single by Takayoshi.

In the first game, Shively finished 5 for 5 with two runs and four RBIs. Sales went 3 for 4 for the Lutes and also drove in four runs. For Willamette, Rowan was 2 for 3 with two runs and three RBIs.

Aratani led PLU with a 3-for-5 performance in the second game. He scored three runs for the Lutes. Bloom paced Willamette by going 3 for 4 at the plate The Lutes outhit the Bearcats, 12-7.

Trey Watt pitched the first six innings in the opener to improve to 3-1. WU starter Kelsey Nakata (Sr., RHP, Mililani, HI/Mililani HS) took the loss and fell to 0-1.

Bleecker upped his record to 5-0 in the second game. He registered seven strikeouts and six walks, while allowing four runs and seven hits. Chris Torgerson (So., RHP, Sacramento, CA/Jesuit HS), 0-1, started for WU and threw six innings. He recorded three strikeouts and four walks.

The teams are scheduled to play another doubleheader on Sunday, March 22. First pitch is slated for 12 p.m. (PDT).

Pacific Lutheran University 17
Willamette University 6
Pacific Lutheran University 8
Willamette University 4
T.C. Lee smacked a two-run homer in the sixth inning of the second game against PLU.

T.C. Lee smacked a two-run homer in the sixth inning of the second game against PLU.