Baseball drops opening NWC series, falls to fourth place

Joe Stuart, Staff Writer

The no. 14 Linfield Wildcats (1-2, 7-4) lost their first conference series of the season two games to one to the no. 17 Pacific Lutheran University Lutes (2-1, 6-5) this past weekend.

“We started the season with four great wins, which was great to see,” Neely said. “But now we definitely had a tough weekend, especially for our first conference weekend.”

“It puts us in a tough spot in our conference, but we’ll definitely look to battle back and win our next series.”

Linfield started out strong in the first game, winning big 7-2. Right-handed pitcher Cal Neely, ’18, held a no hitter through six innings and would go on to throw seven innings with four strikeouts, while allowing two runs on three hits and three walks.

The ’Cats’ offense started up in the third inning, thanks to a double from leadoff man Finn McMichael, ’16.

McMichael then advanced to third thanks to a sacrifice bunt from Scott Hilpert, ’16, and then scored off a base hit by Ben Andrews, ’17.

Andrews was able to score after Ryan Ross ’17, singled and the PLU defense committed an error, advancing Ross to third and putting Linfield up 2-0.

The bats on both sides were quiet until the eighth inning after Neely hit PLU first baseman Cole Johnson with a pitch and then gave up a home run to Tyler Thompson to tie the game at two runs apiece.

Neely was then pulled for reliever Cody Walker, ’16, who would finish the game, and be credited with the win. Walker threw the final two innings perfectly, retiring the final six batters in a row.

The Wildcats then saw clutch offense in the top of the ninth and a complete breakdown of the Lutes defense, scoring five runs on four hits, two walks, and two errors. The inning was highlighted by Hilpert’s two RBI triple.

Linfield was not able to continue their success in the second game on Saturday, losing 8-3. Riley Newman, ’17, who had started out the season with two straight wins, got the loss, allowing seven runs on 12 hits through five innings.

The only bright spot offensively for the Wildcats in game two was Hilpert, who had two hits and accounted for all Linfield scores with three RBIs.

Linfield’s defensive struggles started in the second inning, with Newman allowing three runs on four hits. They continued in the third, allowing two runs on three hits, but stopping damage with two Lutes runners left on base. PLU would score again in the fifth and seventh innings.

Hilpert’s seventh inning two RBI base hit was the first offense for Linfield but would not get things going for the rest of the team, with their only other score coming in the top of the ninth off a Hilpert sacrifice fly to center field.

Linfield could not piece together a win on Sunday either, falling 5-2, despite jumping out to an early lead in the second inning, where they scored their only two runs of the game.

Lefty Cason Cunningham started the game, but was pulled early, leaving after allowing a run in the fourth inning. He was relieved by Joe Perryman, ’16, who would pitch the rest of the game and receive the loss.

Perryman allowed two more runs in the fourth and one run in both the seventh and eighth innings.

Linfield is now fourth place in the Northwest Conference standings and will likely drop from their no. 14 national ranking.

Linfield has their first home conference this series against the University of Puget Sound Loggers (1-2, 3-7). The first game starts on Saturday at 11 o’clock.