BASEBALL: Pacific sweeps Puget Sound to set up a huge weekend series with Linfield

Break out the brooms, because Pacific's baseball team has been all about sweeps lately.

A week after opening Chuck Bafaro Stadium with a four-game sweep of Whitman, the Boxers traveled to Tacoma, Wash., and swept a weekend series against Puget Sound, running their win streak to 10 games and powering the team into second place in the Northwest Conference.

In addition, Pacific senior Zach Gantenbein and junior Blaine Knuth swept NWC Player of the Week honors, with Gantenbein bringing home the offensive hardware and Knuth earning the pitching award.

All the sweeps will carry Pacific (15-9, 14-6) into perhaps the biggest NWC series of the year - a four-game set at home this weekend against first-place Linfield (18-6, 13-3).

'It was a great weekend for us,' said Pacific head coach Greg Bradley. 'I'm encouraged by the way we're playing. We're looking forward to taking on the No. 1 team in the conference and seeing how we stack up.'

Led by Knuth, Gantenbein and company, Pacific rolled past Puget Sound (11-12, 7-9) last weekend, winning two lopsided games on Saturday and two nailbiters on Sunday.

The Boxers ripped Puget Sound 16-6 in the opener on Saturday, bolting out to a 10-0 lead after three innings and padding the margin to 16-1 after seven.

Pacific's 18-hit offensive effort was sparked by leadoff hitter Jeff Johnston, who was a perfect 4-for-4 with four runs scored and three RBIs. Gantenbein was 2-for-3 with three RBIs, while Nick McNeely and Matt Hendryx each had two hits and three RBIs.

Pacific rolled to a 13-0 win in Game 2 on Saturday, but Knuth was the real star. The junior righthander tossed a complete game three-hitter, striking out nine and never allowing a baserunner past second base. Gantenbein went 3-for-6 with a home run and two RBIs, and Hendryx was 4-for-6 with a double and an RBI.

Sunday's games were quite a bit closer, but Pacific was able to hold off the Loggers in both ends of the doubleheader to secure the series sweep.

Pacific took Game 1 by a score of 6-4, building a five-run lead on Joey Pulito's two-run double in the first and Hendryx's 10th home run of the season in the second. Puget Sound rallied in the late innings and sliced the gap to two runs, but Tyler Fransen was able to induce a game-ending double play for his second save of the season. Jason Reed got the win for Pacific, allowing three runs on six hits over five innings.

Puget Sound took its first and only lead of the series in Game 2, scoring a run in the bottom of the third to go ahead 1-0. Pacific erased it with two runs in the sixth, keyed by an RBI single from Gantenbein. Puget Sound tied things up in the bottom of the sixth and the game remained tied until the ninth when Gantenbein scored what proved to be the winning run on a single by Kaeo Lau Hee. Hendryx added an insurance run with a squeeze bunt.

Kyle Barksdale got the win in relief, pitching the final 1 1/3 innings. Brandon Larson started and went 5 2/3 innings, striking out two and allowing two earned runs.

'It was a very good weekend. We beat them handily the first day. The second day we had two close games and we did some clutch things on the mound and at the plate,' Bradley said. 'The players are happy where they are but still hungry to improve.'

Pacific, which was picked by conference coaches to finish seventh this season, will open the weekend series against Linfield at noon on Saturday.

'I don't think people expected us to be this good,' Bradley said. 'It's fun to be at this stage of the season and have series that are important. For us to be in contention, that's exciting.'

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