by Annie Miller, staff writer
The NAIA No. 8-ranked PLNU Sea Lions swept a GSAC twinbill at Carroll B. Land Stadium Saturday, defeating No. 15-ranked Fresno Pacific University (FPU) 8-6 and 2-1.
The two victories, along with other conference results today, lifted the Sea Lions from ninth in the standings to seventh. PLNU is now just a game out of sixth — and the final playoff slot. In fact, a very tight and competitive conference has the fourth through ninth spots separated by just three games.
Senior Edgar Molina’s three-run homer capped a seven-run fourth inning in PLNU’s game one win while senior Kenny Houser tossed a complete- game to lead the Sea Lions to the nightcap triumph. PLNU evened its record to 13-13 overall, 8-11 GSAC. The Sunbirds, meanwhile, fell to 19-11, 13-7 conference.
Tied 1-1 after three full innings of play in the opener, the visiting Sunbirds scored twice in the top of the fourth inning to go ahead 3-1, but the Sea Lions sent 10 men to the plate in the home half of the frame. Freshman Clinton Harwick drove in two runs with a single to get the rally started. Sophomore Jack Diamond smacked a RBI hit, and junior Scott Stidham drove in another run with a ground out. Molina, the next batter, sent an offering from FPU starter Aaron Lynn over the rightfield wall.
The Sunbirds pushed across two more runs in the fifth and one more in the ninth to make things interesting, but PLNU senior reliever Maurice
Wilhelm got the last three outs to earn his fourth save of the year and preserve the win for sophomore starter Jack Archie (4-1).
Wilhelm was aided by his defense in the ninth. Sea Lion junior thirdbaseman Shain Stoner made a terrific diving catch and throw to register the
first out, and senior leftfielder Rashad Taylor made two running grabs for the last two outs of the game.
PLNU pounded out 12 hits in the opener. Junior Scott Stidham, senior Alec Martinez and Harwick had two hits apiece.
Houser (2-2) went the distance in game two, allowing just four hits and one run while fanning six Sunbird batters. The FPU defense helped the Sea Lions score both of their runs.
Harwick plated the team’s first run with an infield hit in the fifth, and Stoner doubled home Molina in the sixth.
Houser was a pitch away from a shutout until Michael Rivera lined a home run over the leftfield wall in
the top of the seventh. The PLNU senior fanned Alec Mehrten for the final out of the day and gave the Sea Lions a much-needed sweep of Fresno Pacific.
Fresno starter Ryan Castadio pitched well but suffered the loss and fell to 3-1.
Stoner and Harwick each had two of PLNU’s six hits.
PLNU and FPU split their fourgame season series, each team winning twice on their home fields. The Sunbirds, who are dominating at home with a 13-1 record, are just 6-8 on the road. The same can be said for the Sea Lions, who are now 11-5 at home, 2-8 away from Carroll B. Land Stadium.
PLNU has two home tilts coming up this week, Wednesday and Thursday versus Vanguard. Both games start at 3 p.m.