By Myles Bridgewater-Jackman
Sports Information Student Assistant
PORTLAND, Ore. - The Lewis & Clark baseball team opened their final Northwest Conference home series on Saturday against the George Fox Bruins. The Bruins earned a 7-1 win in the opening contest, before taking the second one 15-4.
What began as a pitchers' duel between starters Ian Buckles and Ryan Strombom, turned into a runaway win for the George Fox Bruins in the later innings of Game One on Saturday.
In the first inning, Strombom quickly worked himself into a no-out jam, walking the first two batters of the inning. The Pioneer starter kept a cool head though, and came back to strike out the next three batters. The three Ks in the bottom of the first sparked a string of 15 consecutive batters retired by Strombom over the first five innings.
George Fox broke the scoreless tie, as well as Strombom's streak, in the top of the sixth inning. Bruin left fielder, Brandon Wileman started off the frame with a bunt pushed down the third base line. Third baseman, Connor Eggleston fielded the ball on one hop and threw on to first. However, while stretching to catch the ball, first baseman, Nick Lockwood collided with the runner, who knocked the ball loose and plowed into Lockwood's upper body. Wileman moved to second on a sac bunt, and then over to third on a single. Andrew Reichenbach broke the Bruin goose egg with a sac fly to right and put George Fox ahead 1-0.
Lewis & Clark accumulated six runners against Ian Buckles through as many innings, but failed to drive any of them across the plate. In the seventh, Sean Shepherd took things into his own hands. After taking a ball up and in, Shepherd belted a 2-2 pitch over the left field wall for his first home run of the year. The solo shot, tied the game, but George Fox retaliated almost as quickly as Shepherd's ball left the park.
In the top of the eighth, the Bruins put a pair on base with back to back base hits. Aj Valencia plated the lead runner with a single of his own to recapture the lead 2-1. The Pioneers retired the next Bruin on batter's interference, but his successor at the plate, Andrew Reichenbach, clubbed a double over the left fielder's head. Two runs scored on the play and Strombom was replaced on the mound. The Lewis & Clark starter ended his outing after seven and a third, allowing five earned on five hits and two walks, while striking out 10 on the day.
Strombom's relief would not fare well against the Bruin lineup, and allowed three more to be driven in before the inning was over.
The Bruins scored their seventh and final run in the top of the ninth on a sac fly to center. They would then go on to seal their victory in the bottom half of the frame, retiring three of four Pioneers.
The Pioneers quadrupled their run total in Game Two of Saturday's double header, but Riley McKean and the Bruins were unstoppable in the night cap, scoring 15 runs on 19 hits in conjunction with 6 Lewis & Clark errors.
Things were looking good for the Pioneers in the early going of play. After an inning and a half, Lewis & Clark was down by a run, and ready to get on the board. Hayden Higger whiffed on an 0-2 pitch but as the ball got away from the catcher, Higger hustled down to first to reach base safely on the dropped third strike. Bruin starter, Sean Eberhardt, retired the next batter via fly out for what should have been the third out of the inning. However, the extra out gave the Pioneers another chance in the second to capitalize on.
Lockwood hit a screaming liner out of the reach of a diving Jake Thran to move Higger to third and place himself at first. Ben Beck followed up with a grounder hit to the mound that got away from the pitcher. The ball was fielded by the third baseman, but by the time his throw reached first, Beck had safely crossed the bag and Higger, home. Bradley Lezak hit a ground ball on the left side of the infield, but the Bruins gave up another inning-ending out when shortstop Clay Mott, bobbled the ball, allowing Lezak to reach base safely. With the bases loaded and two outs, left fielder, EJ Hand stepped to the plate. Hand worked a 3-1 count before singlehandedly clearing the bases on a double that rolled all the way to the wall. The four runs gave the Pioneers a short lived three run lead entering the third inning.
The Bruins answered all four Pioneer runs on a pair of two-run jacks by Zach Rapacz and Jake Thran. Rapacz's crushed a mammoth to left while Thran's game-tying tater left the yard via right-center. Kyle Esquerra reached on an error, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch and then scored on a one-out single to retake the lead 5-4.
From then on, the Pioneer bats were all but silenced by George Fox, and the Bruins kept driving in runs.
Riley McKean, on his way to a six-hit day, turned in on a pitch down in the zone to golf a three-run home run over the left field fence in the fourth.
Two more scored in the fifth on an error and an RBI single to left, driving the lead to 12-4.
McKean hit his second home run of the game in the top of the sixth, this time a solo shot to left.
Another run scored on an infield error in the eighth before McKean drove in two more runs in the ninth. The George Fox third baseman was perfect at the plate, driving in six runs on six hits in six at bats, and scoring four along the way.
The Pioneers wrap up the series in their final home game of the season, Sunday, 12 p.m. at the Huston Sports Complex