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May 1, 2011

Aratani Rewrites Record Book But Lutes Fall

PARKLAND - Ryan Aratani set Pacific Lutheran career records for hits and doubles on a sunny Sunday afternoon, but it came in a losing effort as Linfield finished off a three-game Northwest Conference sweep of the Lutes with an 8-1 win at the PLU baseball field.

Aratani, an all-conference senior centerfielder from Issaquah, drilled a double to the gap in right-centerfield in the bottom of the sixth inning for his 215th career hit and 42nd career double. Both marks are new PLU baseball records, breaking standards set by Jay Chennault (1997-2000).

Linfield's hitting star was Cole Bixenman, who drove in four runs in support of another strong pitching performance by a Linfield starter. Bixenman, who played his prep baseball at Todd Beamer High School in nearby Federal Way, collected a two-run double in the first inning, a leadoff home run in the sixth, and a RBI single in the seventh. The homer was Bixenman's eighth of the season.

Linfield, the No. 6-ranked Division III team in the country, improved to 29-8 overall and finished the conference season with a 20-4 record. The 'Cats won their third NWC title in the last four years by five games over Puget Sound. Pacific Lutheran, meanwhile, saw its overall record drop to .500 at 18-18. The Lutes ended the conference season with a 13-11 mark, good for a fifth-place tie with Whitworth.

There was plenty of offense to go around on the Linfield side of the diamond in addition to Bixenman's performance as Dustin Smith, Tim Wilson and Clayton Truex all collected a pair of the team's 12 hits. Smith scored three runs, Wilson tallied two, and Truex drove in a pair as the hitters in the two through five positions were 9-for-18 with six runs scored and seven batted in.

Zach Manley benefited from his team's offensive output, improving his season record to 4-0 with seven innings of five-hit work. He allowed only one unearned run while striking out three and walking two. Spencer Crepeaux threw the final two innings, giving up three hits but no runs.

The Lutes got their only tally in the bottom of the sixth inning when Jaron Iwakami hit a single, advanced to second on an errant pickoff throw by Manley, moved to third on Dan Johansen's long fly to right, and then scored on a Brock Gates ground out. Aratani followed with his record-setting double, and he later added a bad hop single in the ninth inning.

PLU finished with eight hits, including three by Iwakami and two apiece by Aratani and Ryan Frost.

Senior Scott Wall suffered the loss, his first of the season against six wins. He allowed five earned runs on 10 hits in seven innings of work. He struck out two batters and walked one. Another senior, Nic Delikat, threw a perfect eighth inning in his final appearance in front of the home fans.

Both teams conclude their regular season next weekend in a four-team tournament hosted by Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. George Fox will join PLU, Linfield and LCSC in the round-robin event.

- PLU -