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Boxers start with a bang

BASEBALL: Pacific opens play at Chuck Bafaro Stadium with a four-game sweep of Whitman
by: Chase Allgood, Pacific sophomore Brandon Kon laces a single during the Boxers’ Saturday afternoon Northwest Conference game against Whitman.

Pacific baseball coach Greg Bradley couldn't have scripted a much better start to the 2008 season.

Despite playing 16 straight road games and not having a single outdoor practice, Bradley's bunch salvaged seven wins in the first month of the season, including six in Northwest Conference play. And with construction of their new facility at Lincoln Park nearly completed, Bradley knew things could only get better.

He was absolutely right.

Pacific dominated a four-game series against Whitman over the weekend, sweeping the Missionaries to commemorate the grand opening of Chuck Bafaro Stadium, the Boxers' brand new, state-of-the-art facility at Lincoln Park.

'Any time you can win four games in a weekend is great,' Bradley said. 'But to do it at home and to do it for the grand opening of our new stadium, that's just fantastic.'

Pacific (11-9, 10-6) routed Whitman 23-0 on Friday afternoon in the first-ever game played at the new stadium, then returned on Saturday for official grand opening ceremonies and a sweep of the Missionaries (2-18, 0-12) in a rare tripleheader.

'It was a special atmosphere,' Bradley said of the near-capacity crowd on Saturday. 'The players were excited - it was their first time on the field. The facility is just going to get better and better. There are a few tweaks that need to be made, but the possibilities are enormous.'

Pacific's offense was enormous on Friday, belting 19 hits in a 23-0 rout of Whitman. Senior Matt Hendryx hit his eighth home run of the season (a two-run shot in the fourth inning) and sophomore Joey Pulito hit his fourth of the year (a grand slam that jump-started a nine-run sixth inning). All totaled, the Boxers had seven extra-base hits, while starting pitcher Sean Dickey spun a masterful complete game five-hitter.

A malfunction in one of the park's light towers forced officials to suspend play during Game 2 of Friday's doubleheader, and the teams picked up on Saturday after a grand opening ceremony that included remarks from Pacific Director of Athletics Ken Schumann, Pacific alumnus and keynote speaker Rich Burke, Forest Grove city councilor Pete Truax and several others.

Pacific picked up where it left off, cranking out 17 hits in a 9-3 win on Saturday. Hendryx was 4-for-5, including an RBI single in the fifth inning that sparked a five-run rally. Kaeo Lau Hee added a two-run double in the frame and Pulito tacked on two more runs with a base hit in the sixth that put Pacific ahead 8-0. Blaine Knuth got the win, allowing three runs in 7 1/3 innings.

The Boxers had to work a bit harder for the final two wins on Saturday, holding off Whitman for a 5-3 victory in Game 2 and then erasing a three-run deficit for a 7-6, come-from-behind victory in Game 3.

Pacific scored all five runs in the first two innings of Game 2. Nick McNeely did most of the damage, ripping an RBI single in the first and adding a two-run triple in the second. Jason Reed got the win, pitching 5 1/3 innings before giving way to Tyler Fransen, who closed things out with 1 2/3 scoreless innings for his first save of the year.

In Game 3, Pacific found itself trailing 6-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh. The Boxers rallied for four runs to cap a magnificent opening weekend in Forest Grove.

Pulito drew a bases-loaded walk for the first run of the inning and Korey Yost made it 6-5 with an RBI single. Sophomore shortstop Brandon Kon put the finishing touches on the comeback with a two-run single that scored Pulito and pinch runner Andy Tolbert.

Pacific third baseman Zach Gantenbein was named Northwest Conference Player of the Week for his efforts in the sweep. The senior hit .636 with four doubles, five walks, six RBIs and nine runs scored.

'It was a great weekend. To cap the sweep with a seventh-inning rally, that was a great way to end it,' Bradley said. 'Now we're looking to build on that.'

The Boxers will hit the road this weekend for a four-game series against Puget Sound (11-8, 7-5), then return home next weekend for a huge clash with conference rival Linfield (17-4, 13-3).