SPOKANE, Wash. – Linfield College won the opener and leads Whitworth University in the second game of a Northwest Conference baseball series on Saturday at Merkel Field. The visiting Wildcats claimed the opener 3-1 in a pitchers' duel, while the second game was suspended by darkness with the visitors ahead 9-3 heading to the eighth inning. Play will resume on Sunday at 11:00 am.
The Pirates' NWC playoff hopes hang by a slim margin. Whitworth is 14-16 overall and 9-10 in the NWC, while Linfield improved to 17-14, 11-8 and took over sole possession of second place in the league standings.
Saturday's play was postponed two hours by early rains.
Game 1: Linfield 3, Whitworth 1
In a battle of former First Team All-NWC honorees, Cason Cunningham outdueled Hugh Smith to lead the Wildcats to a win in the series opener.
Cunningham allowed one run on five hits in six innings of work to improve to 6-4. He had nine strikeouts and two walks. Dylan Peters tossed two innings of shutout relief, while Liam Herlihy survived two walks to earn his fourth save with a scoreless ninth.
Hugh Smith allowed three runs on eight hits in 6.2 innings to drop to 5-1 this season. He struck out seven and walked two. Darren Crosby finished up and allowed only one walk. But that walk came on his first batter with the bases loaded and forced in the third run.
Cameron Fox almost scored the first run of the game in the top of the fourth, but he was thrown out at home by Whitworth right fielder JT Phelan after a single by Jake Dennis.
Rediger added an RBI single in the seventh, driving in Daniel Zavala with the eventual game-winning run. After Linfield loaded the bases, Fox drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk from Crosby for the final run.
Phelan and Nerud had two hits each to lead the Pirates at the plate.
Game 2: Linfield leads 9-3 (top of 8)
Daniel Zavala has driven in three runs, including a two-run homer in the top of the fourth, to help Linfield grab a big lead.
The Wildcats scored two runs on only one hit in the top of the first. Fox drew his second bases-loaded walk of the day to force in the first run. Rediger scored on a sacrifice fly by Jared Evans. Rediger added a sacrifice fly in the second for a 3-1 lead and Zavala's homer in the fourth increased the margin to 5-0.
Whitworth got a run back in the bottom of the fourth on Nerud's RBI single. Spender Locati had a two-out, two-run single in the fifth the cut the margin to 5-3.
Linfield added an unearned run on the top of the sixth when Jake Dennis came home after a Whitworth throwing error on Colton Robinson's sacrifice bunt.
Two more runs came home on a Whitworth error in center field in the top of the seventh. Alec Cook added an RBI single to increase the margin to 9-3.
Cal Neely put himself in position to earn his third win of the season by allowing three runs (one earned) on seven hits in seven innings.
Brady Simmelink started for Whitworth and allowed six runs (five earned) on five hits and three walks. Tim Bever threw two innings of relief and gave up three runs (two earned) on two hits and two walks.