Spokane, Washington - The top-seeded Trinity baseball team overcame an early deficit, a long rain delay, and a change of venue to defeat #6 seed Pacific Lutheran (WA) University 12-7, and capture the NCAA Division III West Region Championship on Saturday.
With the region title comes a second straight trip for the Tigers to the D-III World Series. Trinity (39-7) will compete May 27-June 2 at Appleton, Wisconsin. Pacific Lutheran wrapped up its season with a 29-19 record. The Tigers beat the Lutes 7-3 in Wednesday's opening game of the six-team, double-elimination event hosted by Whitworth University.
The third-ranked Tigers lit up the board at Avista Stadium in the top half of the first inning as Drew Butler drove in Connor Moore with a base hit. Pacific Lutheran, however, responded with four runs in the bottom of the stanza. Trinity's offense was steady, though, scoring one run in each of the next three innings to make it a 4-4 game. The tying run came on a solo homer off the bat of Andrew Waters, who went deep for the second straight game, and the eighth time this season.
In the fifth, the Tiger offense was good for four more runs to take its first lead. Trinity then scored in the sixth and seventh to balloon that lead to 10-4. In the bottom of the seventh, rain interrupted the regional finale, and after a long delay, the teams moved to Whitworth's Merkel Field.
The delay seemed to help the Lutes initially, as Pacific Lutheran scored three runs to cut the Tiger lead in half. Those three runs would be the last of the night for PLU, though, and Trinity responded with two runs of its own in the eighth to push the lead back to five runs.
Waters batted 3-5 with two RBI, and crossed the plate for two runs. He also blasted a triple, and just missed hitting the cycle. Carter McEachern went 3-5 with two doubles and three RBI. Drew Butler hit 3-6 with two runs scored. Nick Jewett was a 3-5 hitter, and drove in a pair of runs, while scoring two others. Jose Santos also accounted for two RBI in the regional championship tilt. Jeremy Wolf and Moore each produced two hits. Wolf continued to increase his school-record total of 28 doubles, and now has 64 RBI in his column, after a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning.
The Tiger pitching staff allowed only four hits in the game. Chris Tate came on in relief in the first inning, and lasted for six innings. Tate (4-0) struck out five batters without allowing a walk to claim the victory. Andrew Hoffman picked up his third save of the season, after pitching the final three innings.
"Chris Tate came in and changed the game right away," said Head Coach Tim Scannell. "He pounded the ball, low in the zone, really pitched the outer half of the plate, and had a really good breaking ball that kept their hitters off balance. He was immense. Because he dominated them much, the offense didn’t need to panic when we were down 4-1. They could just kind of chip away and get ourselves back in the game. At that point, we pulled away from them. Hoffman came in and cleaned it up at the end, and he was awesome as well. We had 20 hits, so the entire lineup had many key hits. Like always, when your pitching can shut down another team’s offense, then hitting becomes easy. There is less pressure, you can be more selective when you get a good pitch, try and square it. Credit goes to Tate and Hoffman, for pitching lights out. Offensively, we have the depth in our lineup, one through nine. It’s unique. We can start an inning from any spot in the lineup, and that’s what we did today."
After the game, the All-Tournament Team was announced, and Wolf, an outfielder, was named the Tournament MVP for the second straight year. Also selected for the elite squad were Waters (outfield), Jewett (first base), McEachern (third base), and Teddy Turner (pitcher).