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Pilots Sweep Santa Clara, Continue UP-and-Down Season

photo by Kyle Cape-Lindelin

Look out Pilots fans! The Pilots baseball team completed their first sweep of the season over WCC opponent Santa Clara on Saturday, March 30. With crowds of over three hundred (Yeah, I knew you listened), it was a perfect weekend for baseball at Joe Etzel Field and the Pilots didn’t waste any time in taking full advantage of the recent sunshine winning their series with a narrow 2-1 win going into ten innings on Thursday March 28 in their first of a double header, 10-3 in a dominating second game and another down-to-the-wire finish before winning 7-6 in the rubber game to earn their first series sweep.

It took ten innings to decide Thursday’s first game of the double header, but Portland stuck it out for a 2-1 win. The win went to junior reliever Colin Feldtman after sophomore Travis Radke struck out nine in six innings, retaining his amazing spot as third in the nation in strikeouts per nine innings.

The Pilots went on to take the second game despite going down 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth. With help from sophomore center fielder Caleb Whalen to trigger the turnaround, Portland scored five runs to give junior pitcher Chad Kjemhus the win. The Pilots would take the second game 10-3.

Saturday’s game went back and forth throughout, but an RBI from Ben Grubb in the bottom of the eighth would put the Pilots ahead 7-6. The score would remain through nine as the Pilots trumped the Broncos and completed the sweep.

It was all smiles for the team who has dealt with some rough loses early in the season to tough ranked opponents, but late Saturday afternoon was a time to celebrate victory.

“It was heaven, it really feels good and I’m proud of the kids and I’m glad that they feel good,” Head Coach Chris Sperry said.

After facing some tougher ranked opponents in the front half of the season, the hard work finally started to pay off. Sperry feels playing teams like No. 10 ranked Mississippi State and No. 9 ranked Oregon prepared his club well going into WCC play.

“We’ve played ten ranked opponents and we still have more to face, but the hope is that playing tougher competition is going to prepare us as we get into the conference,” Sperry said.

With some help out late from the bullpen, junior pitcher Jeremy Burright was called on to bring things home for Portland. He did not disappoint as he came into the game to retire Santa Clara’s final two batters, earning himself the save.

“I was just excited to be out there, it’s always fun when you get to go out there in a close ball game,” said Burright. “Colin did such a good job of bridging the gap and he’s just been fantastic for us this year.”

The victorious success of the sweep could not last  as the Pilots traveled to Corvallis, Ore. to take on No. 6 Oregon State.

While Portland battled late into the game on Tuesday, April 2 against the Beavers and had the lead for the early part of the game, OSU showed why they’re one of the best teams in the nation as they would rally late to defeat the Pilots. With a 2-1 Portland lead going into the bottom of the sixth, the Beavers would score twice and then four times more in the seventh to clinch a 7-5 victory in Corvallis.

The Pilots were able to bounce back from the loss by traveling to Seattle University and taking down Seattle in their most dominating performance of the year winning 13-6 with a season-high 13 runs scored and 18 hits.

After returning home to face their hated WCC rival Gonzaga to the friendly Portland rain, the Friday, April 5th’s game was postponed and the Pilots faced the Zags on Saturday to begin their series. Despite battling as they have all season, Gonzaga was able to squeeze out a win and drop the Pilots record to 12-18. The Pilots continue their series with Gonzaga for two more games Sunday and Monday.

Keep the cheers coming and lets hope for more sun so everybody can keep supporting our Pilots as they compete and grow. Until next week,

-Kyle

 

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