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February 8, 2011

Lutes Kick Off Season With Five Games in Arizona

THIS WEEK: The Pacific Lutheran University baseball team begins its 2011 campaign for a Northwest Conference championship this week as it travels to Anthem, Arizona, for five games in four days. The first four games are part of the Arizona Desert Classic. The fifth game is actually the second game of a Sunday doubleheader against La Verne, but it is not part of the tournament. PLU compiled a 4-0 record at the 2010 Arizona Desert Classic and is aiming for a repeat this year. Pacific Lutheran enters the season ranked 27th in the Collegiate Baseball NCAA Division III national poll and 28th in the D3baseball.com poll.

CLASSIC NOTES: The Lutes open their season in Arizona on February 10 against Concordia University. The Tornados out of Austin, Texas, are 1-1 on the young season. Concordia has been picked to finish sixth in the Southwest Conference West Division this season. On February 11, the Lutes match up with the Cal Lutheran Kingsmen. The Kingsmen are currently 1-1 on the season after splitting a series with Simpson University. In 2010, PLU registered a 10-2 victory over CLU. Saturday afternoon, PLU faces the University of Texas at Dallas. UTD has been picked to finish third in the Southwest Conference East Division. The Comets start their season on Feb. 10, when they take on Whitman College. The Lutes round out their trip in Arizona on February 13 with a doubleheader against La Verne University. Sitting at 0-2 on the year, the Leopard's lost both of their opening games in a home-and-home series with Biola University.

HOME OPENER: Pacific Lutheran opens the home portion of its 2011 season on Saturday, Feb. 26, when it hosts the Saint Martin's Saints in a doubleheader starting at 11 a.m. Prior to the home twinbill, the schedule calls for nine games (eight neutral site), to be followed by five more road games. In other words, the Lutes will play 14 of their first 16 games away from their home field.

SEASON OUTLOOK: Among the top returnees from the 2010 squad are junior second baseman Corey Moore, senior centerfielder Ryan Aratani and senior relief pitcher Ryan Frost, all first team all-conference picks. Junior first baseman Brock Gates, senior outfielder Dan Johansen and senior pitcher Scott Wall, all of whom earned second team all-conference honors, also return to the 2011 PLU team. Senior shortstop Sammy Davis, a second team all-conference selection from 2010 will be making the trip but will not be play as he is out indefinitely with a leg injury. One of the keys to the season involves the starting rotation where the Lutes will have to replace multi-year all-conference honorees Trey Watt and Robert Bleecker. Among the top candidates are a pair of right-handers, junior Nathan Eisenhauer and sophomore Max Beatty.

ABOUT THE COACHING STAFF: Head coach Geoff Loomis enters his ninth season at the helm of the PLU program with a 203-115-2 record. He is the 11th head coach in the program's history and accomplished in both 2007 and 2009 what no others have, leading the Lutes to the Northwest Conference championship. Other members of the coaching staff are assistant head coach Nolan Soete, assistant coach Eric Grice, and pitching coach Joe DiPietro.

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