The sun peeked through the sky for the Portland Pilots baseball team’s matinee contest against the Loyola Marymount University Lions. Portland avoided the weekend sweep capturing a 5-3 victory behind the strong outing of starting pitcher redshirt senior Chris Clements.
The win means the Pilots escape getting swept by the Lions, who beat Portland on Friday 2-1 and Saturday 10-3.
Portland started slow as both starting pitchers found a groove early. Sophomore Nick Frasso was stellar for Loyola Marymount in his three innings of work, striking out six Pilot batters.
Portland’s starting pitcher Clements, however, was able to outperform LMU’s pitching staff. Clements pitched a complete eight innings striking out six hitters and surrendering only two hits. Clements did not have his best pitches working early on, but kept attacking the zone.
“I did not have my best stuff early, but I stuck with it and kept the ball down in the zone,” Clements said. “I trusted my defense and let them work.”
Clements truly pitched to contact, producing 15 ground outs. Not possessing the pitch speed to blow hitters away Clements was effective in hitting his spots around the plate to force weak contact from LMU hitters.
The game picked up in the middle innings. LMU took a small lead after a two run home run from junior outfielder Trevin Esquerra in the fourth inning. LMU added to their lead in the fifth inning when an errant throw trying catch a runner stealing third base from Portland catcher Hunter Montgomery flew into left field, leading to a run for LMU.
Portland answered back in their frame of the fifth inning when sophomore shortstop Chad Stevens hit a ball into the right field gap knocking in a run for Portland. The real fireworks at the plate came from the bottom of Portland’s lineup. Freshman infielder Brett Gillis sent a line drive home run screaming over the left field wall to tie the game at 3-3. The next batter, junior outfielder Henry Cheney, broke the tie by sending a towering fly ball over the left field fence, barely staying fair.
“It was massive,” Portland Head Coach Geoff Loomis said. “Henry had not had an at bat all weekend and Brett only had eight at bats coming into the weekend. When you get any production from your eight or nine hitters it's a big plus. We really needed that since some of our best players are struggling right now.”
Portland extended their lead in the seventh inning following an RBI triple off the bat of redshirt senior Daniel Lopez, making the score the final 5-3.
Portland’s closer junior Connor Knutson ran into some trouble in the top of the ninth inning, with the first batter notching a hit. Knutson let runners onto the corner bases with one out before getting LMU to roll a ground ball which Portland’s infield turned a double play on to end the game.
Portland will be back in action on April 2 in Bellevue, Washington as they take on Seattle University. Portland will finish the game that was stopped due to rain on March 27, as well as play their regularly scheduled contest against the Redhawks.
Jamison White is a sports reporter at The Beacon. He can be reached at email@example.com.