PORTLAND, Ore. – A two-run rally in the bottom of the 9th inning capped a George Fox University comeback from a seven-run deficit for an 8-7 win and enabled the Bruins to complete a sweep of their Northwest Conference baseball doubleheader over the Linfield College Wildcats Saturday afternoon here at the University of Portland's Joe Etzel Field.
In the opener, the Bruins' Brian Ranta out-dueled the Wildcats' Ryan Larson in a matchup of staff aces, giving George Fox a 3-1 win. The games were played at the University of Portland due to unplayable wet conditions in the outfield at the Bruins' Morse Field, which has prevented them from playing a game there all season.
George Fox is now 18-18 overall and 14-9 in the conference, while Linfield is 21-12 overall and 15-8 in the league. The 21st-ranked Wildcats, who were a solid pre-season favorite to win the NWC, trail first-place Pacific University by four games in the loss column. Linfield has one league game left, with George Fox Sunday at 1:00 p.m. at Etzel Field, while Pacific finishes with the University of Puget Sound Sunday and plays three at Pacific Lutheran University next weekend. For Pacific to lose all four, however, the Boxers would have to lose three to PLU - and the Lutes, who are 14-6 in the NWC, would then have only seven losses at the most, still eliminating the Wildcats.
Game 1 - George Fox 3, Linfield 1
Ranta (6-1) allowed only five hits with seven strikeouts and one walk, surrendering only a 1st-inning run and nothing more as the Bruins rallied with two in the 7th and one in the 8th for the first-game win. Larson (6-2) was touched for 11 hits with five strikeouts and one walk as both right-handers went the distance.
Linfield scored its only run in the 1st as Ranta gave up singles to the first two hitters, Tim Wilson and Jordan Harlow, to put runners on the corners. Kyle Chamberlain's one-out sacrifice fly to center scored Wilson, but Ranta settled down and allowed only three hits the rest of the way.
Larson kept the Bruins off the board through six innings, with a big assist from his defense in the 4th. With two out and Derek Blankenship on first, Timothy Williams hit a liner to center that Kramer Lindell dove for but could not hang onto. The ball rolled behind Lindell as Williams motored into second with a double, and when Blankenship tried to score, he was gunned down at the plate on a relay from left fielder Zach Boskovich to shortstop Kenny Johnson to catcher Chamberlain.
The Bruins finally got to Larson in the 7th. With two away, Jared Chase beat out a high chop to short for an infield hit and advanced to second on a wild throw by Johnson. Greenstein singled off the glove of Larson to put runners on the corners, and Taylor Hunter lined a single to center to tie it, with Greenstein going to third. Danny Clifford's grounder to short was booted as Greenstein scored the go-ahead run.
The Bruins added an insurance run in the 8th. Williams beat out an infield single, stole second and went to third on a wild throw by the catcher, and scored on a two-out single up the middle by Zac Israel.
Greenstein, Williams, and Chase had two hits apiece for the Bruins. Lindell was the only Wildcats with two hits.
Game 2 - George Fox 8, Linfield 7
George Fox southpaw Connor Harris (1-1) threw a dazzling 4.1 innings of two-hit shutout relief, striking out two and walking none, and the Bruins came back from seven runs down with only three regulars in the lineup over the second half of the game to stun the Wildcats.
Linfield jumped on the Bruins' Taylor Dunn for four in the 3rd, starting with a double by Johnson and an RBI single by Wilson. After a steal and walk to Harlow, Lindell hit a long fly to left that Greenstein first caught over his shoulder, then dropped. With the runners retreating, the Bruins were able to force Wilson at third, but a wild throw to second allowed Harlow to reach third and Lindell second. Chamberlain lined a single to left to score Harlow as Lindell stopped at third, but Greenstein injured his arm making a wild throw to second, allowing Lindell to score and Chamberlain to reach third. Nate McClellan doubled to right-center for the final run.
The Wildcats added another in the 4th on consecutive two-out singles by Jesse Bousted, Wilson and Harlow, and two more in the 5th as Johnson tripled in McClelland and Zach Boskovich, who had singled. Harris entered the game after Dunn hit Bousted and the Wildcats' scoring was done, but their 7-0 lead looked safe as Linfield starter Robert Vaughn cruised through the first four innings, allowing only one hit.
George Fox got one run in the 5th as the Bruins loaded the bases on singles by Nick Benish, Zach Miller, and Jared Chase, and pinch runner Austin Egger scored from third as Todd Nagamine, who had replaced the injured Greenstein in left, hit into a double play.
The Bruins made it a game again with a five-spot in the 6th. Clifford led off with a single, Emmett Ackerlund doubled him to third, and Larson balked in the first run. John Mountz reached on a throwing error at short as Ackerlund scored. With one out, Egger singled up the middle and Miller drove a double down the left-field line to score Mountz, and a single by Chase scored Egger with Miller going to third. Nagamine's sacrifice fly to center cut the Bruins' deficit to 7-6, but Spencer Crepeaux (1-2) relieved and got out of the inning, then shut out for two more innings until the fateful last of the 9th.
Nagamine was hit by a pitch to lead off the frame, and Zach Hegelmeyer sacrificed him to second. Clifford then launched a drive to deep right where Lindell made a lunging catch, only to have the ball pop free as he crashed onto the warning track. Clifford wound up at third with a triple as Nagamine scored the tying run. With Ackerlund at the plate, a down-and-in curveball got away from reserve catcher Chance Laboda, and Clifford cruised home standing with the winning run.
Miller went 3-for-3 to lead the Bruins, who had 11 hits, while Clifford and Chase had two apiece. The Wildcats collected 13 hits, three by Wilson and two each by Harlow, McClellan, and Johnson.