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A Competitor and a Champion

Tualatin High grad Corey VanDomelen helps Linfield win a national baseball title


by: LINFIELD SPORTS INFORMATIN/LEHIGH PHOTO - HEADING FOR HOME -- Tualatin High School graduate Corey VanDomelen hits third base and heads for home during play at the NCAA Division III baseball finals. The Wildcats won the national title. TUALATIN — Corey VanDomelen has always been a competitor.

You could see that when he played basketball and baseball at Tualatin High School.

His competitiveness helped lead those Timberwolf squads to success.

Well, since then, VanDomelen has taken his competitiveness to a whole different level — and he helped the Linfield College baseball team claim a national championship.

The Wildcats, with VanDomelen, a 2011 Tualatin High School graduate, shining at shortstop, won the national title, beating Southern Maine 4-1 in the NCAA Division III Finals National Championship game played May 28 at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wis.

“It was just an awesome experience,” said VanDomelen, who just completed his sophomore year at Linfield College. “It’s huge. (Linfield head coach Scott) Brosius kept saying it’s a big deal. It was big not only for us, but the community as a whole. The whole thing is just surreal.

“It’s everything you’d think it would be, and more. It was just amazing and unbelievable. It was the light at the end of the tunnel.”

But reaching that light — that national championship light — didn’t come without a lot of hard work, competitiveness and determination.

“Corey is a kid that hates failing,” Tualatin High School baseball coach Adam Strachan said. “He just refuses not to be successful. We’re all absolutely excited for him. He fought and grinded it out.”

“Yeah, I’ve always been a competitor,” VanDomelen said.

All of that competitive spirit, determination and grit led to a superb sophomore season, and a national crown for VanDomelen and the Wildcats.

Starting at Linfield

While VanDomelen’s sophomore season with the Wildcats ended in spectacular fashion, he didn’t exactly get off to a flying start at the college located in McMinnville.

In fact, VanDomelen spent most of his freshman season at Linfield playing on the Wildcat junior varsity squad.

“That was a little different, and I had to make an adjustment,” VanDomelen said. “Maybe I was overconfident, and I needed a reality check.”

So, it was time to get to work.

“It is high-level baseball here,” VanDomelen said. “I realized that there was a lot more I needed to add to my game, so I put my work in. I worked my way up.”

VanDomelen saw a bit of varsity action at the end of his freshman season, playing in a pair of games and getting one at-bat.

“I got to see what it was all about,” he said.

Super sophomore

VanDomelen entered his sophomore season with one specific goal in mind.

by: LINFIELD SPORTS INFORMATION/LEHIGH PHOTO - IN THE SWING OF THINGS -- Tualatin High School graduate Corey VanDomelen had a big year at the plate in helping the Linfield College baseball team reach the NCAA Division III finals. “I wanted to put pressure on (Brosius) to put me in the line-up, and keep me in the line-up,” VanDomelen said.

Mission accomplished.

The scrappy 5-foot-9, 180-pound VanDomelen claimed the starting shortstop spot with the Wildcats, and he didn’t let go of it.

As a sophomore, he played in 49 of the team’s 50 games, starting 45 of those contests. VanDomelen hit for a .272 batting average, with 43 hits in 158 at-bats.

He scored 43 runs, ranking third on the team in that category, while driving in 19. VanDomelen also drew a team-high 34 walks and he also paced the Wildcats in sacrifice bunts with 14.

In addition, he also had 12 stolen bases in 15 attempts.

On defense, VanDomelen led the Wildcats — by a big margin — with 147 assists while compiling a .923 fielding percentage.

That all added up to first-team All-Northwest Conference accolades for VanDomelen.

“I know, starting the season, that Corey didn’t know where he was going to play,” Strachan said. “But he grabbed that shortstop spot and he kept it.”

“I got hot at the plate at the right time,” VanDomelen said. “I took advantage of my opportunity. I have to give a lot of credit to the seniors, who reached out to work with me in the fall.”

VanDomelen also gives a nod to his teammates in the Linfield infield.

“It was my first time for me playing at varsity,” VanDomelen said. “So I was really fortunate to have Tim Wilson, and then Michael Hopp to the left of me, and Jordan Harlow to my right. That really helped.”

Deep in the heart of Texas

Linfield, after finishing regular season play with a 34-6 record and the Northwest Conference championship, earned a spot in the six-team Austin Regional, held at Concordia (Texas) University in Austin, Texas.

“It was really, really hot there,” VanDomelen said. “And there was good competition, for sure.”

The winning team at the double-elimination regional tournament would go on to earn a spot in the Division III national finals.

Linfield, the No. 1 seed at regionals, opened the Texas tourney by scoring a 2-0 win over Texas Lutheran on May 15. The Wildcats then posted an 8-3 win over Pomona-Pitzer, with VanDomelen hitting an RBI triple in the first inning of that contest.

A 4-3 win over Trinity College kept Linfield unbeaten and put the Wildcats in the tourney championship.

Trinity battled its way to the finals as well, and got a 3-2 win over the Wildcats on May 18, setting up a winner-take-all game later that day.

The Wildcats got a 3-1 win in the rematch, with VanDomelen going 2 for 4 at the plate with a run scored. With that victory, Linfield punched its ticket to the NCAA Division III finals.

“It was huge. We were giddy about it,” VanDomelen said of the regional title-game win. “We had only one guy (catcher Kyle Chamberlain), who had been there in 2010. We were all like ‘this is happening.’”

On, Wisconsin

It was only a few days after the regional victory in Texas that the Linfield squad took off for Appleton, Wisc., site of the NCAA Division III finals.

“We were treated pretty special there,” VanDomelen said. “We went and toured the field, took pictures and signed some autographs. That was pretty cool.

“They said that, whether you won the championship, or went two-and-out, they wanted to provide memories that would last forever.”

That’s all well and good, but the Wildcats weren’t just happy to be there.

“We came in thinking that we’re pretty good, and there’s nothing we haven’t seen already,” VanDomelen said. “Some teams say they’re good one-through-nine. We felt like we were good one-through-13 or 14. This was the deepest and most selfless team I’ve played on.”

The Wildcats opened the double-elimination national tournament by holding on for an 8-6 win over Ithaca College in a game played May 24 at Fox Cities Stadium. VanDomelen went 3 for 5 at the plate in that contest with two runs scored and an RBI.

Linfield followed that up with a 10-1 win over Southern Maine on May 25. VanDomelen again had a big day at the plate, as he went 3 for 4 with a run scored.

In the May 26 winners’ bracket final, Linfield posted a 5-3 come-from-behind win over Wisconsin-Stevens Point in what turned out to be an emotional contest. On one side, Wisconsin-Stevens Point, located about 45 minutes away from Appleton, had a huge amount of supporters at the contest.

“It was one of the biggest crowds that I’ve played in front of,” VanDomelen said.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats were mourning the loss of one of their most devout supporters, as Arnold Owens, who was a 1954 Linfield graduate, passed away in Appleton, just hours after the victory over Southern Maine.

“It was a real emotional win,” VanDomelen said.

With the win, the Wildcats clinched a spot in the championship game of the tournament. The Linfield team felt like they were part of something special.

“I don’t know that there is such a thing as a team of destiny,” VanDomelen said. “But we all felt like we were a team of destiny at that point.”

On May 27, Linfield fell 6-4 to Ithaca College, meaning that the Wildcats would play in a winner-take-all championship game on May 28 against a yet-to-be-determined opponent.

That opponent turned out to be Southern Maine, which bested Ithaca earlier in the day.

In the title tilt, Linfield took a 4-1 lead to the top of the ninth inning. With two outs in the frame, and the game on the line, Southern Maine’s Anthony Pisani hit a grounder to VanDomelen at short.

“It was kind of a chopper,” VanDomelen said. “I took a breath and waited for the hop — just like I’ve done a million times before. The last thing I remember is letting go of the ball and watching. It was just a blur after that.”

VanDomelen’s throw was on the mark, the game was over, and Linfield had won its first baseball national championship since 1971.

“Right when I let go of the ball, I threw my glove up in the air,” VanDomelen said. “Michael Hopp and I were the first ones there to the dog pile. I was toward the bottom of the pile. It was kind of rough, but it was all OK — it was amazing.”

Family ties

Corey’s parents, Tom and Lori VanDomelen, were there in Wisconsin to watch the championship game. Meanwhile, his three older siblings, Lauren, Holly and Peter, were all together to watch a telecast of the title contest.

“My family has been so supportive of me,” Corey VanDomelen said. “I’ve been really blessed to have them all around me.”

He added that he could also thank his family for his competitiveness.

“With three older siblings (Lauren and Holly were both standout softball players at Tualatin High School and Peter preceded Corey on the Tualatin varsity baseball team), you have to be competitive,” he said.

Tualatin days

VanDomelen says his playing days at Tualatin High School definitely helped in his success at Linfield.

“My experience at Tualatin was so awesome,” he said. “Tualatin baseball was such a tight-knit family. I loved that.”

Tualatin High School basketball coach Rick Osborn also had an influence on VanDomelen, who was a guard on the Timberwolf hoop squad.

“Oz had a great impact on me,” VanDomelen said. “He taught me to expect excellence out of yourself.”

What’s next?

VanDomelen is looking forward to his junior season at Linfield. But, he insists, he and the Wildcats aren’t looking too far ahead.

“We’re just going to focus on our first game,” VanDomelen said. “We never look forward too much.”

VanDomelen will see a couple familiar faces at Linfield next year, as Connor Scott and Jon Fishback, both 2013 Tualatin graduates, will be joining the program.

“It will be nice to have a couple more Timberwolves around here,” VanDomelen said.

Meanwhile, VanDomelen will be playing some for the Cowlitz Black Bears of the West Coast League this summer. The Black Bears had better be ready to add a competitor who just refuses not to be successful to their roster.



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