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May 6, 2010

Lutes Await Postseason Fate After Finishing Second

AT-LARGE IS IT: After suffering a tough three-game sweep at the hands of the Linfield Wildcats last weekend, Pacific Lutheran's postseason hopes now rest with the NCAA Division III tournament selection committee, which announces the tournament field on Monday, May 17. In order to make its second ever tournament appearance and its first since 2007, PLU would have to be given a Pool C at-large bid reserved for conference runners-up.

LUTES OUT OF REGIONAL RANKING: The Lutes dropped out of the most recent NCAA Division III West Region rankings, making it less likely that they would be given one of the at-large berths. PLU had been No. 6 in last week's ranking, but the three losses dropped the team out of the top six, which now looks like this - Chapman (Calif.), Linfield (Ore.), Pomona-Pitzer (Calif.), Mississippi College, Trinity (Texas), and Texas Lutheran. Several teams in the region are playing games this weekend that will go a long way toward determining the regional tournament playoff field. Once those games are played, the playoff field will be pretty well sorted out.

ABOUT THE LUTES: Pacific Lutheran finished the regular season atop the Northwest Conference team batting ranks (.362 team average). The Lutes' 4.40 team earned run average ranks third in the conference. PLU also ranks third in the league in team fielding percentage (.968). The Lutes boast six hitters among the NWC's top 14 in batting average: Ryan Aratani (7th, .398), Corey Moore (8th, .395), Brock Gates (9th, .391), Ryan Frost (11th, .385), Dan Johansen (13th, .382) and Josh Takayoshi (14th, .380). Brock Gates leads the team with eight home runs and 109 total bases, and Ben Shively leads the team in runs batted in (49). Trey Watt and Scott Wall rank first and fifth in the league in earned run average at 2.81 and 3.97.

RISING IN THE RECORD BOOKS - OFFENSE: Over the past several years, the Lutes have begun an entire rewrite of the PLU baseball record books. That has continued this season, as three players look to take their place in the pantheon of great PLU baseball careers. Seniors Ben Shively and Josh Takayoshi have sealed their positions in several offensive categories, while junior Ryan Aratani should have a chance to break at least six offensive records for the Lutes when he concludes his PLU career next season. Shively's .396 (146-for-369) career batting average ranks as the best in school history, followed closely by Aratani's .391 (173-for-442). Takayoshi comes in fifth with an also-astounding .381 career mark (175-for-459). Shively's 115 career runs batted in are tied for second most in PLU history, two behind Jordan Post for the top spot. Takayoshi is tied for seventh with 104 RBI, with Aratani ranking eighth with 100. Takayoshi's 140 runs scored are second-most, two behind first-place Jay Chennault, while Aratani ranks fifth in that category with 121 career runs. Takayoshi's 175 career hits are tied for fourth-most in school history, with Aratani two hit behind in seventh. Aratani's 31 doubles ranks ninth, with Takayoshi one behind in 10th. Takayoshi's 40 stolen bases are tied for seventh. As a team, the PLU offense is on pace to beat last year's school-record .357 batting average (.362 through the regular season finale).

RISING IN THE RECORD BOOKS - PITCHING: While a trifecta of Lutes rewrite the career offensive records, the PLU co-ace tandem of Trey Watt and Robert Bleecker are making their mark on the mound. Watt and Bleecker each have 22 career wins, tied for fourth-most in school history. Watt ranks in the all-time top-10 lists in innings pitched (seventh, 231.1), strikeouts (third, 212) and earned run average (seventh, 3.54). Meanwhile, Bleecker also ranks among the university's best in strikeouts (tied-seventh, 162) and innings pitched (10th, 214).

SEASON RECORDS IN DANGER - INDIVIDUAL: Several Lutes have broken or approached PLU single season records this season. Dan Johansen's 65th hit of the season Sunday broke Josh Takayoshi's team record of 64 set last season. However, a late push by Brock Gates gave him the single-season title with 68 hits. Johansen is only two hits behind with 66, while Josh Takayoshi is three behind with 65 and Ryan Aratani finished the regular season with 64. Takayoshi and Aratani each scored 49 runs this season, one shy of the team record of 50 that Takayoshi tied last season. Gates' 174 at bats is tied for second-most in a single season, behind only Ryan Thorne's 179 at bats in 2007. Trey Watt's nine wins are tied for second-most in school history, two behind Joe DiPietro's record total of 11, set in 2007. Finally Ben Shively (49) and Brock Gates (48) finished second and third in single-season runs batted in, behind Shively's team record of 51 set last year.

SEASON RECORDS IN DANGER - TEAM: The PLU offense broke several offensive records this season. The Lutes' 554 hits are the most in school history, breaking the previous record of 504 set last season. PLU's 110 doubles are nine more than last season's former record. The Lutes' 373 runs batted in broke the previous record of 367 and PLU's 771 total bases are 39 more than the previous record, both set in 2009. The PLU offense fell one run shy of last year's team record of 404 runs scored total bases. The pitching staff set an ominous record with 49 wild pitches, nine more than the previous school record set in 1996.

THREE TIMES 30: The Lutes' 30 wins this season are the third-most in school history, behind last year's 31 and 2007's record of 35.

SENIOR SUCCESS: The 2010 four-year senior class will go down as the most successful four-year class in PLU history, with an overall record of 120-42-2 and an average of 30 wins per season. The Lutes won two Northwest Conference championships during the four-year stretch, finishing in second this season and third in 2008.

NATIONAL RANKINGS: Pacific Lutheran, 30-10 during the regular season, fell from No. 16 to No. 24 in the American Baseball Coaches Association/Collegiate Baseball poll, and from No. 16 to No. 23 in the d3baseball.com Top 25.

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