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March 10, 2010

No. 14 Lutes Head to California to Face Menlo

THIS WEEK: Pacific Lutheran (11-2 overall, 2-1 NWC) at Menlo (6-8) in a doubleheader (2-9), Saturday, noon; PLU at Menlo, Sunday, 1 p.m.

ABOUT THE OAKS: Menlo has been outscored by 20 runs this season, with the key struggle for the Oaks being the early innings. Menlo has been outscored 43-9 in the first three innings, while the Oaks have outscored their opponents 39-25 in innings 4-6. The Oaks' pitching staff has been the strong suit of the team, with a combined 4.24 earned run average. Unfortunately for Menlo, the offensive numbers are not pretty: a .222 team batting average, .343 team slugging percentage and .326 team on base percentage. The team defense has been mediocre, compiling a .949 fielding percentage, although the Oaks have put together 12 double plays through their first 14 games. In a three-game series against George Fox two weeks ago, Menlo dropped all three contests by a combined score of 36-10.

ABOUT THE LUTES: Although the offense struggled against George Fox last weekend, Pacific Lutheran still leads the Northwest Conference in team batting with a .359 team average. The Lutes also boast the top pitching staff in the league with a 3.96 earned run average. PLU's .964 fielding percentage ranks third in the conference. Lutes own four of the top nine batting averages in the conference - Ryan Frost (fourth, .429 average), Josh Takayoshi (seventh, .415), Sammy Davis (eighth, .407) and Ryan Aratani (ninth, .392) - as well as two of the top three individual earned run averages - Scott Wall (second, 2.28 ERA) and Trey Watt (third, 2.70). Pacific Lutheran first baseman Brock Gates leads the conference with 18 runs batted in and is tied for the league lead with six homeruns.

LATE-INNING MAGIC FUELS LUTES: Pacific Lutheran won the first two games of its NWC-opening series against George Fox in exciting fashion last weekend. Hosting the defending conference co-champs, the Lutes scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning in game one to earn the 6-5 win. But that was nothing compared to the comeback in Game Two, when the Lutes spotted the Bruins four runs in the top of the 10th inning before scoring five runs without recording an out in the bottom of the inning to take the 7-6 victory. Seemingly on their way to a third consecutive ninth-inning comeback, the Lutes fell short in Sunday's series finale, stranding the tying run on second base to end the 4-3 loss.

NATIONAL RANKING: The Lutes are ranked no. 14 nationally in the latest d3baseball.com poll, moving up from last week's 17th spot.

- PLU -