Friday, March 8, 2013

Lutes keep it close in conference opener

The baseball team takes two of three games from Willamette, each game decided by single run

by Christian Dilworth, Sports Writer
Pacific Lutheran University opened conference play on Saturday, hosting Willamette for a three-game series. After a Saturday sweep, they were downed by the Bearcats in the final game of the series on Sunday. A single run decided all three games.

In what was the conference-opening weekend for both teams, PLU improved to 9-4, 2-1, while Willamette fell to 5-7, 1-2.

PLU 1, Willamette 0

In the series-opener on Saturday, junior Max Beatty proved why he is the ace of the rotation, allowing three hits, no walks and striking out five in eight innings pitched. Beatty is 3-1 this season.

Sophomore AJ Konopaski pitched a scoreless ninth inning to record his second save of the season.

The Lute’s lone run came in the fourth inning when sophomore Marcus McClurkin grounded into a double play, scoring junior Dominick Courcy.

Courcy led off the inning with an infield single, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and then to third on a bunt base hit by junior Alec Beal.

Willamette pitcher Peter Hoffman suffered the hard luck loss, only allowing four infield singles and striking out three in eight innings pitched.

PLU 4, Willamette 3

The second game of the double header featured two lefties on the mound, PLU’s Trevor Lubking, a sophomore, and Willamette’s Albert Garcia. They exchanged scoreless innings until the shutout was broken in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Courcy led off the inning with a walk, and advanced to third on a single into right field by sophomore Curtis Wildung. First-year Carson McCord then drove in both runs with a double drilled into the gap in left-center field.

The Bearcats finally broke a 16-inning scoreless streak in the top of the eighth.

Tyson Giza and Matt Hirsch hit back-to-back singles to lead off the inning, forcing

Lubking off the mound for Konopaski to come in for relief. A Tosh Semlacher single through the left side greeted Konopaski and loaded the bases with no outs.

Giza scored soon after on a sacrifice fly by Hunter Gallant, followed by an RBI single from Peter Davis that scored Hirsch from third. With the tying run on third, sophomore Clay Trushinsky charged Brad Breier’s slow roller down the third-base line, fielded it and threw to first just in time to catch Breier for the final out of the inning.

That’s when Daniel Altchech provided PLU with an insurance run, hitting his first collegiate home run well beyond the left-field fence, increasing the lead to 4-2.

Willamette started to rally in the ninth, scoring a third run, but it swiftly ended after two consecutive strikeouts from Konopaski, giving the Lutes the win and

Konopaski his second save of the day.

Willamette 7, PLU 6

On Sunday the Bearcats left the victors, but not without a valiant effort by PLU to rally back.

The visiting pitcher, Brandon Simon, came into the game with a 0-2 record, but seemed to catch the Lutes off guard by hitting his spots through six innings on the mound. Meanwhile, he was supported by his offense, providing him with three-run bursts in the fourth and fifth innings.

Pacific Lutheran knocked on the door in the bottom of the seventh, scoring four runs on six hits. Then in the eighth, they had the opportunity to take the lead before it slipped away.

Senior Jacob Olsufka and first-year Tanner Bogart led off with back-to-back singles off Willamette reliever Parker Johnson. Courcy attempted to move the runners with a sacrifice bunt, but Willamette’s catcher, Breier, fielded it and threw out Olsufka at third.

Altchech then came up to the plate and grounded into a double play, ending the threat.

Johnson then powered through the final three Lutes in the ninth inning, securing the Bearcat’s victory.

The Lutes return to conference action this weekend, traveling to Walla Walla to face the Whitman Missionaries in another three-game series.