Visiting Linfield College got strong starting pitching performances from Ryan Larson and Zach Brandon in sweeping a Northwest Conference baseball doubleheader from Pacific Lutheran on Saturday afternoon, 9-4 and 3-0.
The No. 6-ranked Wildcats, who wrapped up the conference title last weekend, improved to 28-8 overall and to 19-4 in the NWC, while the Lutes fell to 18-17 overall and 13-10 in the NWC.
Larson, last year's NWC Pitcher of the Year, allowed only one run on eight hits in eight inning of work in the opener. Striking out five and walking just one, Larson improved his record to 7-2. Brandon, a freshman, was even more impressive, shutting out the Lutes on just five hits in eight innings. He struck out three and walked two while improving to 4-0 this season.
Game One: Linfield 9, PLU 4
Clayton Truex provided most of Linfield's offense, hitting a pair of three-run homers in the first game and driving in a pair of runs in the nightcap. Truex, a freshman transfer from Washington State, hit his seventh and eighth homers of the season in the fourth and fifth innings of the opener. Both came against PLU starting pitcher Max Beatty, who allowed seven earned runs in 5 1/3 innings to fall to 5-4 this season.
Larson and Beatty put zeroes on the board through the initial three innings, but the Wildcats finally got to Beatty in the fourth. Tim Wilson led off with a single and Cole Bixenman was hit by a pitch to bring Truex to the plate. He belted a fastball inside the left field foul pole to put Linfield on top, 3-0.
The following inning, Wilson started a two-out rally with a single, and he went to third on Bixenman's base hit. Linfield then tried to execute a double steal, and PLU had Wilson caught off third, but he got back to the bag and Bixenman ended up at second. Truex followed with a long blast to straightaway left field.
The 'Cats added a run in the sixth on Dustin Smith's RBI single, and they tallied two unearned runs against reliever Bret Handy in the ninth on RBI hits by Kevin Coleman and Gunnar Cederberg. Handy allowed just the two unearned runs on four hits in 3 2/3 innings of work.
The Lutes added three runs on five hits in the ninth against relief pitcher Jacob Nolte. With two outs, Nicholas Hall collected his fourth single of the game, and Dominick Courcy followed with another base hit. Moore loaded the bases with a base hit, and Dan Johansen followed with a two-run single to right field. Jaron Iwakami drove in another run with a base hit, but the 'Cats got the final out to wrap up the win.
Linfield had 13 hits with Smith, Wilxon, Truex and Cederberg all getting two each apiece. Hall's 4-for-4 performance led PLU's 13-hit attack, while Moore, Johansen and Gates all had a pair of hits.
Game Two: Linfield 3, PLU 0
Brandon was the story in this game, not giving up more than a hit in any inning and also not allowing a PLU baserunner past first base. Evan Hilberg finished with an inning of work, and while giving up a single, he also did not allow PLU a runner past first.
PLU starting pitcher Johansen, now 4-3 this season, battled Brandon on nearly even terms until the ninth.
Linfield broke through for a run in the fourth when Wilson hit a single, stole second and later scored on a ground out by Truex. In the ninth, Wilson led off with a triple to the right field corner, and Bixenman followed with an infield single off the glove of diving PLU second baseman Courcy. Wilson stayed at third, but he trotted in moments later on a single by Truex, the eighth RBI of the day for the Linfield designated hitter.
Kevin Allan moved the runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt, and that brought about a pitching change for PLU, with Ryan Frost replacing Johansen. After a strikeout, Kyle Chamberlain looped a single into left field for the game's final run.
Linfield collected 10 hits in the game, including two apiece by Wilson, Bixenman, Nate McClellan and Chamberlain. The Lutes managed just six hits, three by Johansen.
The two teams wrap up their three-game conference series at noon Sunday with a nine-inning game.
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