By Giancarlo Santoro, Sports Writer
Four hours, 442 pitches and 15 innings later, the Pacific Lutheran University men’s baseball team fell at home to crosstown rival University of Puget Sound, 2-0.
In what can only be described as a pitchers’ duel, it took until the top of the 15th inning for UPS to score the all-important two runs to claim its first win of the three game series.
With the win, UPS improved to 6-9 overall and 5-3 in Northwest Conference, while PLU dropped to 12-6 overall and 7-2 in NWC.
“Playing UPS is always an important weekend for us,” junior AJ Konopaski said. “Not only are they conference games, but they are our crosstown rival, and we always want to have the best team in Tacoma.”
The game turned out to be an endurance test for both sides, with pitchers Konopaski and junior Trevor Lubking pitching 4.2 and 8.1 shutout innings respectively. Despite the good showing by the Lute pitchers, Logger pitchers Jarrod Beiser and Troy Kakugawa came away with the win.
Offensively, sophomores Tyler Thompson and Drew Oord and junior Colin Nilson came the closest to putting the Lutes on the board, but couldn’t make the breakthrough.
“This weekend we didn’t have very much offensive production,” Lubking said. “We lacked the big hit or hits on Saturday in the marathon of a game and UPS had the one clutch inning and came out on top.”
It turned out to be one of those days for the Lutes, with the second game of the day needing to be postponed due to darkness with UPS leading 13-6 in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Despite PLU taking a 2-0 lead into the third inning, UPS smashed four straight runs on four hits in the fourth before junior Curtis Wildung made it 4-3 in the bottom of the fourth with a solo home run.
UPS extended its lead in the fifth and put the game away in the sixth by hitting four doubles and seven runs to create a lopsided 12-3 score.
After going down another run in the top of the eighth, PLU tallied three runs in the bottom of the same inning to make it 13-6 until darkness made the game unplayable.
“The team lacked timely hitting in the first two games,” senior Alec Beal said. “We left a lot of runners on base and couldn’t drive them in. That first game also seemed to give UPS all the momentum heading into the second game.”
UPS improved to 7-9 overall and 6-3 in NWC, while PLU fell to 12-7 overall and 7-3 in NWC going into the third game.
Determined to avoid a sweep, PLU took the third game of the rivalry series 5-4 Sunday and will now look forward to four nonconference games in California over spring break.
“Coach Loomis told us to ‘flush’ Saturday after the game had been postponed,” junior Trevor Lubking said. “He said that they may have won today, but the sun comes up and tomorrow is a new day. And that’s the mentality we all had going into Sunday, and we pulled out a victory.”
With the win, PLU sits near the top of the NWC with a 13-7 overall record and 8-3 in conference. Despite the two wins, UPS still sits behind PLU in the standings after dropping to 7-10 overall and 5-4 in NWC.
“Losing the first two games was tough, but we definitely wanted to avoid a sweep,” Konopaski said. “Winning the third game not only prevented us from getting swept by our rivals, but it kept our NWC title hopes intact.”
Junior Chris Bishop pitched for the Lutes through eight innings and didn’t give up a run until the sixth. Konopaski took over in the ninth and threw a perfect inning to come away with the win.
Beal, Nilson, Oord and first-years Ben Welch and Jacob Clements all batted in runs for the Lutes.
“Our team has a lot of promise going forward, and we are still in control of our own destiny,” Konopaski said. “We just need to continue to improve from an offensive perspective, and we will win a lot of games.”
Splitting their four-game road trip in California, the Lutes will take on Linfield Saturday. Game time is set for noon and will take place in McMinnville, Ore. 🅼