McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Linfield College completed a three-game Northwest Conference baseball sweep of visiting Whitworth with a 10-4 win in the first game on Sunday, but the Pirates avoided a four losses in one weekend to the Wildcats by taking the non-conference series finale 9-3.
Whitworth is now 19-13 overall, but 9-12 in the NWC, and the Pirates trail Whitman (11-10 NWC) by two games for fourth place in the NWC standings. The top four teams in the standings qualify for the league tournament. Linfield remains in first place, percentage points ahead of Willamette (15-6) and Pacific Lutheran (17-7).
Matthew Nelson finished the day 4-8 with five RBIs for the Pirates, who return home to host Pacific (Ore.) in a three-game NWC set on Friday and Saturday, April 14-15.
Game 1 – Linfield 10, Whitworth 4
The Wildcats jumped out to a 7-1 lead after two innings and were never threatened the rest of the way to claim the third of three conference-counting contests.
Linfield eventually led 10-1 before the Pirates scored three runs late in the game. Ben Andrews and Ryan Pladson both went 2-5 and drove in three runs for the 'Cats. Andrews hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the first. Pladson and Ryan Ross each had two-run doubles in the bottom of the four-run second inning.
Nelson went 3-5, including a two-run homer in the top of the seventh. Jordan McGowan hit a solo home run for the Pirates in the top of the second. McGowan also scored the Pirates' final run in the eighth on Nate Lamberty's ground out to third base.
Cal Neely improved to 5-0 for Linfield by throwing six innings and giving up one run on seven hits.
Game 2 – Whitworth 9, Linfield 3
The Pirates avoided a four-game sweep thanks to six strong innings from T.J. Orchard in his first pitching start of the season and another home run by Nelson.
Whitworth scrapped out a four-run rally in the top of the first. Nelson drove in the first run with a sacrifice fly. Tyler Bailey added an RBI double and Ryan Bird ended it with another sacrifice fly.
After Linfield pulled to within 5-3 in the bottom of the fifth, Whitworth put the game away with two runs each in the sixth and seventh innings. Nelson's team-leading 10th home run of the year highlighted the two-run sixth. He also had a sacrifice fly in the seventh to finish with three RBIs.
Garrett Hughes went 2-3 and scored three runs for the Bucs, while McGowan finished 3-5 with an RBI and a run scored.
Orchard (1-0) threw six innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits. He struck out five batters and walked only one. Matthew Pulliam finished up with three scoreless innings of relief.
Carter Buuck (0-1) took the loss for Linfield after giving up four runs (one earned) on five hits in 2.0 innings.