McMINNVILLE, Ore. -- Linfield edged Wisconsin-Stevens Point 3-2 in an intense matchup between the tournament's undefeated teams Friday at Roy Helser Field, a game which included the potential game-tying home run nullified by an appeal play.
After Nick Fisher and Jo Carroll served up solo homers to give the Wildcats (36-7) an early lead, Stevens Point's Kyle McHugh seemingly responded with one of his own to tie the game at 3 in the eighth. However, the designated hitter was called out on an appeal for not touching first base, sending Linfield through the winner's side of the bracket.
Wildcat designated hitter Scott Hilpert drove in the game-winning run in the fourth and Kenny Johnson went 4-for-4 at the plate as nearly every member of Linfield's lineup tallied a hit.
Zach Brandon took the win for Linfield, improving to 8-1, while Zach Manley registered the save after pitching the final three frames.
The Wildcats led throughout, but never by a comfortable margin. After Linfield jumped out to a 2-0 lead, the Pointers (31-12) halved the deficit in the third when Casey Barnes scored on a Riley Spetz single to left.
Getting the offense going early, Fisher watched two pitches go by before sending the third one 355 feet over the left-center fence. Jake Wylie followed up with a single but Clayton Truex grounded into a double play to keep the advantage at 1-0.
Swinging at the first pitch, UW-Stevens Point shortstop Spetz led off the Pointers' half of the first with a single through the right side. The designated home team could not capitalize, however, as the Linfield defense recorded three straight outs on a fly ball, force at second and another fly out.
Not to be outdone by his fellow outfielder, Carroll crushed a ball over the right-field fence in the second to double the Wildcats' lead. Fisher tried to make it back-to-back home runs in the third, but came up just a few feet shy as left fielder Barnes made the catch at the warning track.
Digging in with a 2-1 lead and two outs in the fourth, Eric Lawson sent a line drive down the first-base line that first baseman Cody Hanke got a glove on but couldn't completely catch. Lawson advanced to third when Johnson punched a ball up the middle – nearly taking out the pitcher, umpire and second baseman – and scored on Hilpert's base hit to left to put Linfield back ahead 3-1.
A walk issued to Corey VanDomelen loaded the bases, but Spetz corralled Fisher's grounder at short to keep UW-Stevens Point within striking distance.
Defensively, Brandon and the Wildcat defense limited the Pointers to just three baserunners through the sixth, retiring seven straight at one point.
In the seventh, Wylie a line drive into left center, and Truex laced a grounder just inside the left-field line to give the Wildcats runners on the corners, but three straight outs foiled Linfield's plans to gain further distance from UW-Stevens Point.
The Pointers sensed an opportunity to pull closer and followed through on the promise as Carlson and Hanke led off with singles to right. Barnes scored Carlson on a sacrifice fly to left, but Manley struck out pinch hitter Ben Gerber and coaxed Spetz into a groundout at third to preserve the 3-2 advantage.
In the eighth, McHugh sent one over the left-field fence but after crossing home, Linfield called for an appeal, and the first-base umpire ruled the designated hitter did not touch the bag, erasing the tying run from the scoreboard.
UW-Stevens Point reliever Nick Prebelski shut down the Wildcats in order, and though Hanke reached when a grounder got past Truex and into the outfield, Lawson handled a routine groundout at third to seal the deal for the top seed.