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Linfield Athletics | March 23, 2014

More extra-inning magic as No. 2 Linfield sneaks past Whitworth

McMINNVILLE, Ore. -- For the second consecutive weekend, second-ranked Linfield needed extra innings to get past a tough Northwest Conference foe from eastern Washington. This game took just a tad longer, but after 11.1 frames, Corey VanDomelen sent the game-winning RBI into right field, plating Chance Laboda for a 3-2 victory against Whitworth on Sunday.

Throwing 10 of his 11 pitches for strikes, Wildcat reliever Cody Walker earned his first collegiate victory on the mound a day after registering his first career save. He threw a pair of strikeouts, including one for the final out of a precarious 11th inning with Pirates on second and third.

In the 12th, Walker delivered a three-pitch strikeout to Eric Nikssarian before setting Garrett Hughes up for a flyout to right and Nick Motsinger for a groundout to second, bringing Linfield's offense back to the plate in need of some late-game heroics.

Laboda led off with a single to left center, and moved into scoring position on a sacrifice from Kenny Johnson. VanDomelen drilled a single to right, sending Laboda home for another nail-biting victory in arguably the toughest weekend series yet. Linfield outscored Whitworth (6-12, 3-6 NWC) just 9-5 over the three games, winning the final two contests by only one run each.

After waiting until at least the second inning before scoring in Saturday's doubleheader, Linfield struck early on Sunday. VanDomelen extended his hitting streak to 10 games with an infield single up the middle, and Eric Lawson sent a grounder slicing through the grass to the left-center fence to push Linfield's leadoff man across for a 1-0 lead with one inning in the books.

Ben Andrews doubled in the second, and Matthew Miller and Matt Nelson and tallied hits for the Pirates in the third and fourth frames, but starting pitchers Aaron Thomassen and Spencer Ansett kept both offenses relatively quiet in the early going.

Thomassen worked into a jam in the top of the fourth, surrendering a single to Matt Nelson before walking Justin Liu, but picked up Paul Miller's grounder himself and tossed to first for the final out.

In the top of the fifth, Jo Carroll made a valiant effort trying to track down Matthew Miller's fly ball to left center, but couldn't quite get his glove on the ball as Whitworth's outfielder rounded his way to third base. Hughes' line drive to shallow center plated Miller, knotting the teams at one run apiece. Gerhard Muehlheims' groundout moved the go-ahead run to second, but Thomassen struck out Josh Davis to end the threat.

Taking advantage of the opportunities presented to him by virtue of some sloppy Whitworth defense, Clayton Truex put Linfield ahead in the sixth, if a bit unconventionally. After reaching on an error, the senior first baseman advanced to second on a passed ball. In the same at-bat, Davis, the Pirates catcher, attempted the pickoff at second, but when the throw sailed into the outfield, Truex made his way home, giving the ‘Cats a 2-1 lead. 

Motsinger sent a double down the right-field line to open the eighth inning, and advanced to third on Muelheims' sacrifice bunt. Davis drove in the tying run on a base hit to right field, driving Thomassen from the game and bringing Joseph Stevick to the mound. The 6-foot-6 junior recorded the final two outs in quick succession to preserve the tie game.

Whitworth reliever Michael Renner began his outing with two fly outs, but plunked Truex and surrendered a single to Kramer Lindell before handing off to older brother Jason. The elder Renner coaxed an easy grounder out of Carroll, however, to keep the game-winning runs stranded.

Both defenses continued to make clutch plays to extend the game. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Johnson sent a fly ball to left field, where Jeremy Druffel made a great diving grab to force extra innings. In the 10th, Nick Fisher drew a two-out walk, but was caught stealing to push the game into an 11th frame.

In Whitworth's half of the 11th, Davis dropped a fly ball in the right-center gap, giving the Pirates a baserunner and three outs to play with. Druffel wisely spent the first to sacrifice Davis to second, but when Nelson struck out in the next at-bat, the Pirates had fewer opportunities to gamble. Pinch hitter Thomas Wakem sent a single into left, but Carroll's throw from the outfield held Davis at third. A day after recording his first career save, Walker was called upon again, and got the strikeout for the final out.

Truex drew a leadoff walk off new pitcher Taylor Isadore, and moved to second on a sacrifice from Lindell. Carroll sent a deep fly ball to right, but Nikssarian, just inserted in the outfield, went to the fence for the grab. Pinch runner Jackson Ruckert still managed to advance to third, but a Nate McClellan flyout to left ended yet another scoring opportunity.

Walker retired the side in the 12th to set up Linfield for the late-inning victory. Walker closed out the final 1.1 innings after Thomassen tossed 7.1 solid frames and Stevick hurled 3.1 scoreless innings.

Isadore took the loss for the Pirates. Matthew Miller paced the Whitworth offense, batting 3-for-4, while Davis tallied two more of the Pirates' 10 hits.

Andrews and VanDomelen totaled two hits apiece for the home team.