PLU baseball inching closer to postseason berth

The Pacific Lutheran University baseball team finished a busy weekend of action in Oregon with a 3-1 record, beating Lewis & Clark twice and beating Willamette in a make-up game from a rain-out earlier this season. Two Lute pitchers set single season team records.

The first game against Lewis and Clark was highlighted by PLU pitcher Trevor Lubking’s record-breaking performance and consistent offence from the rest of the team. Lubking, a junior, pitched eight innings and gave up two earned runs on eight hits with no walks.

His 13 strikeouts on the day put him at 103 on the season, breaking the PLU record for most strikeouts in a single season and ranking him number one among NCAA DIII pitchers. Lubking set the previous record of 102 last season.

“Last year, I broke a record that stood for 10 years,” Lubking said. “This year I’ve topped my own number.”

The Lutes owned most of the offensive action in the game. In the third inning with first-year Shawn Abe aboard, junior Collin Nilson hit a double into center field to score Abe. The Lutes added another run in the fourth inning when sophomore Tyler Thompson scored on an error by the Lewis & Clark third baseman.

Junior Kit Banko hit an RBI single in the fifth inning, and Nilson scored on a balk to bring PLU’s advantage to 4-0. In the sixth inning, junior Curtis Wildung hit a two-run blast over the wall in right-center to give PLU a 6-0 lead.

Lewis & Clark scored two runs in the eighth inning, but junior AJ Konopaski recorded the final outs and put the game away for the Lutes.

 

In the second game, PLU pitcher Chris Bishop tossed a gem. The junior lasted eight innings and gave up one earned run on six hits with two walks while fanning nine batters.

Lewis & Clark scored a run in the bottom of the first inning, but the Lutes struck back in the second, scoring four runs. With men reaching base on errors, sophomore Garrett Brown hit a two RBI double. Abe also hit a double that scored a run, and senior Alec Beal hit a single that scored Abe and gave PLU a 4-1 lead.

Lewis & Clark scored another run in the bottom of the second, and in the fourth inning, first-year Ben Welch scored a run for the Lutes on a fielder’s choice.

Pinch hitter Nicholas Hall, a senior, had an RBI in both the fifth and ninth innings. The first was a double down the left field line, and the second was a sacrifice fly that scored sophomore Drew Oord.

Lewis & Clark scored a run in the ninth inning but it wasn’t enough, as Konopaski recorded the save for the Lutes. The save was Konopaski’s NCAA DIII leading 12th of the year, and the save also broke the PLU record for most saves in a single season.

 

In the third game, the Lutes suffered an 8-4 loss. Nilson pitched 1.2 innings and gave up four runs, though none were earned. Nilson did his best to help his own cause, as he hit a sacrifice fly in the third inning and a solo home run to left field in the eighth.

 

The final game of the weekend was a makeup game against Willamette from a rain-out earlier this season.

First-year Derrick Mahlum earned his sixth win of the year for the Lutes. He went 6.2 innings and gave up three earned runs on seven hits while walking two and striking out eight.

In the first inning, Wildung hit a 3-2 pitch into the outfield for a base hit that scored Thompson and gave PLU a 1-0 lead. In the third inning, the Lute bats came alive and put up a whopping eight runs.

With the bases loaded and one man out, first-year Kory Vanderstaay drew a walk to bring in a run. Then Welch hit a 0-2 pitch through the right side, scoring Nilson from third. This brought up Thompson, who hit a grand slam homerun over the left field wall.

After Thompson’s blast, the Lutes would plate two more runs — one on a Willamette throwing error, and one on a base hit by Oord.

The Lutes weren’t done yet. Later in the fourth inning, Thompson struck again, this time hitting a solo shot over the fence in left field. Abe added an RBI single and increased PLU’s lead to 11-0.

Willamette managed to score five runs over the rest of the game, but the damage done in the third was too much to overcome. Konopaski recorded yet another save, and the Lutes came away with the victory.

The Lutes are hopeful to get a playoff spot at the end of the season.

“The playoffs are out of our hands at that moment,” Lubking said. “If we take care of business this weekend, then the cards may play into our favor.”

After the weekend’s action, the Lutes’ record improves to 22-14 overall. In Northwest Conference play, PLU is 13-8, good for fourth place. The Lutes play their final series of the regular season against Pacific this weekend. 🅼

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