Thursday, June 29, 2017 This Week's Paper

Loggers use dominant pitching to sweep Lutes

// UPS ends eight-game skid, faces big upcoming series

Searching for a way to put an end to an eight-game losing streak, the Puget Sound baseball team turned to a tried and true old formula – pitching, pitching and more pitching. Behind a solid weekend from their starters, the Loggers swept their crosstown rivals in a three-game series at home on March 23-24 to creep to within three games of league-leading Linfield. And the Loggers will get a chance to move even closer as they travel to face the Wildcats on March 29-30.

Needless to say, Loggers head coach Brian Billings breathed more than just a sigh of relief. “This losing streak was weighing pretty heavy on us, but to sweep PLU and get back in the race, it’s pretty big going down to Linfield this weekend,” he said.

In the series-opening twin bill on March 23, Matt Robinson scattered eight hits in a complete-game effort as the Loggers edged the Lutes by a score of 3-1. In the nightcap, Jarrod Beiser, Steve Wagar and Lucas Stone combined on a seven-hitter as UPS beat the Lutes 4-2.

Nathan Aguiar took the hill in the series finale for the Loggers on March 24, and along with the recent solid mound performances for UPS, the bats awoke that afternoon as well in a 6-3 win. Aguiar got the Loggers off to a great start with four and one-third innings of no-hit baseball, and UPS tallied three runs in the second inning, one in the third and two in the fourth for a 6-0 lead. The Loggers chased PLU starter Chris Bishop after just three and two-thirds innings.

But the Lutes would start to solve Aguiar in the fifth inning with one out, as Marcus McClurkin doubled down the right field line for Pacific Lutheran’s first hit. And with runners on first and second, Garrett Brown singled in McClurkin for the first PLU run. Alec Beal later singled to score both Daniel Altchech and Brown, cutting the Loggers’ lead to 6-3.

The turning point in the game came in the seventh inning, when Wagar – who came on to replace Aguiar and recorded the final out in the sixth inning – faced a tough situation. But with runners on second and third and one out, Wagar got the Lutes’ Nicholas Hall on a grounder to force McClurkin at the plate, and struck out both Alec Beal and Carson McCord to end the threat.

“I just had to come in and throw strikes,” Wagar said. “It was a big shot in the arm for our team.”

Stone took over for Wagar in the eighth to set down the Lutes in order, and soon after the losing streak became a faded memory as the Loggers began to look forward to opportunities ahead.

“It was nice to see the bats come alive in this series, and the pitching was just outstanding,” Billings said.

With the Linfield series looming large, the Loggers’ focus now on getting back into the Northwest Conference race.

“Linfield is a great team that is near the top of the standings every year, so we’ll have to go down there and bring our ‘A’ games for the entire series,” Wagar said.