PORTLAND, Ore. -- The first win was worth the wait for senior pitcher Aaron Landecker.
In his fifth start of the season, Landecker allowed two runs on three hits over seven innings to help the Lewis & Clark Pioneers to a 4-2 win over No. 14 Whitworth in Monday's non-conference match-up at Huston Field.
"It feels good," said Landecker, who retired the first 13 batters in order. "The coaches and I came up with a great plan that matched my strengths against their weaknesses, and from there, had to execute. We picked up the ball well today, especially with two outs."
Despite leaving games with the lead or tied in half of his starts this season, Landecker hadn't been able to pitch to a win. On Monday, the strikeout served as a big out producer, as Landecker's six strikeouts matched his season high from Feb. 7 against Puget Sound. The visiting Pirates went down in order in the first, with Matthew Nelson striking out to end the inning. Landecker struckout the side in the second, after the Pioneers had scored two runs in the bottom of the first.
Whitworth's first baserunner came in the fifth inning when Jacob Yamane hit a one-out double to left field, ending Landecker's 4 1/3 perfect innings.
"We tried not to think about it. I tried to stand in the same spot for as long as possible," said Lewis & Clark head coach Tom Flynn. "Lando did a great job. They're a great team, and he kept them off balance. He was in complete command."
As much as Whitworth struggled at the plate early, the Pirates also had miscues that led to Lewis & Clark's first runs. The Pioneers leadoff hitter Bradley Lezak reached on an error by Whitworth first baseman JT Phelan when a ground ball went by him. Ben Beck sacrifice bunted Lezak to second before Cooper Larson was hit by Whitworth starter Tim Bever. With one out, Sean Shepherd hit a fly ball to left field, which was misjudged by Jeremy Druffel, allowing Shepherd to reach safely and load the bases. Lewis & Clark scored a run apiece on ground balls by Connor Eggleston and Tommy Massari to lead 2-0 after one inning.
In the fifth, the Pirates scored after Yamane's double. Ryan Bird hit a single, moved to second on a wild pitch and Nate Lamberty walked to load the bases. Landecker threw another wild pitch during Anthony Bonilla's at-bat, allowing Yamane to score with one out. Skyler Lockabill hit a ground ball to Eggleston at third base, who threw home for a force out, and then Nicholas Nerud struck out to keep the Pios ahead.
Shepherd hit a two-out single to score Lezak, who led the fifth inning off with a single, to put the Pioneers back up by two, 3-1.
Whitworth scored for the second straight inning when Phelan doubled to center field to score Jeremy Druffel, who led off the top of the sixth by reaching on an error, the first of two by Lewis & Clark.
Lewis & Clark limited Whitworth to seven batters in the seventh and eighth innings, with Drake Gilliland replacing Landecker in the latter inning. The Pirates put the leadoff batter aboard in the ninth, but the Pios posted three outs in the next four batters to close out the win.
Beck (pictured right) went 2 for 2 including an RBI double in the seventh inning to put the Pios up by two for the third time in the game. Lezak was the only other Pios player with more than one hit, finishing 2 for 4 with a double of his own in the second inning.
"We had some timely hitting. This year's team is a little different in that we've had trouble in the past getting up for these midweek games, and they did a good job of that today," said Flynn, whose team improved to 7-6 against Northwest Conference teams overall this season. "In this game, confidence is key. It ebbs and flows. It's up and it's down. Confidence is really, really important."
"It's huge," said Landecker about beating two top 20 teams in the last three days. "This really loosens us up and allows us to play the best game we can play."
After the Linfield series, the Pioneers are fifth in the NWC with a 3-3 record, and will play at sixth place Pacific in a three-game series starting Saturday. The Boxers swept Pacific Lutheran before losing two of three at Puget Sound in their last two NWC series.
Other Northwest Conference Scores - Monday
Whitman 10, Aurora 4