Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lutes look to put cats in the bag

Columnist breaks down softball’s big weekend

By Nathan Shoup, Sports Reporter

Game predictions

Willamette: Saturday’s softball doubleheader features a Willamette team 3-3 at home and a PLU team 2-4 on the road. All four of those losses came in early February in Hawaii.

Last Sunday, the Lutes scored fewer than nine runs for the first time since Feb. 6. Look for the Lutes to have a big offensive day against the Willamette pitching staff with a 5.81 ERA, which is sixth-worst in the NWC. The Lutes’ 2.08 team ERA is second best in the conference.

MY PREDICTION: PLU beats Willamette game one in a nail biter 4-2 and breaks the second game wide open winning 10-1.

Linfield: The Lutes struggled recently against the Wildcats, but were able to hand Linfield one of their three losses last season.

As the defending national champions, Linfield has shown no signs of giving up its title starting the season 10-0 and maintaining a staff ERA of 1.50.

MY PREDICTION: PLU falls in two close games 7-5 in game one and 8-4 in game two.

Scouting report: Willamette Bearcats

The Bearcats enter the weekend with a 7-6 overall mark and a 6-2 record in the NWC, one game behind the Lutes for second place.

As a team, the Bearcats are hitting .332 and are led by outfielder Jessica Barry who has compiled a .406 batting average in 13 games, which is 10th best in the NWC.

Barry’s eight stolen bases this season are tied for third best in the conference.

Alex Watilo leads the Bearcats in the circle with a 2.86 ERA. Her five victories, four complete games and 28.2 innings pitched are all tops in the NWC.

The Lutes and Bearcats share the common opponents of Pacific and Lewis and Clark this season.

Saturday, the Bearcats split a doubleheader with Pacific, winning the first game 12-7 and losing the nightcap 12-4. The Lutes manhandled the Boxers in a doubleheader Feb. 26, outscoring Pacific 19-6 in the sweep.

Sunday, the Bearcats swept Lewis Clark by 3-1 and 11-0. The Lutes made quick work defeating the Pioneers 10-0 and 11-3 both in five innings Feb. 25.

Dating back to 1981, the Lutes have dominated the overall series with the Bearcats holding a 75-22 advantage.

The Lutes face doubleheader games against Willamette Saturday at noon and 2 p.m.

Scouting report: Linfield Wildcats

The Wildcats with come into the weekend with a 10-0 overall record and 8-0 in the NWC.

Cruising through the first quarter of the season, Linfield has hardly broken a sweat, outscoring opponents 100-12. All eight of Linfield’s conference games have ended with the mercy rule.

The Wildcats are hitting a daunting collective .398. Outfielder senior Jaydee Baxter leads the NWC with a .519 batting average. Infielder sophomore Ashley Garcia and infielder junior Karleigh Prestianni are each hitting .500, good for a second-place tie in the NWC.

As dominant as Linfield has been offensively, the pitching staff has been equally impressive. Linfield has a team ERA of 1.50 while holding opponents to a .170 batting average.

PLU currently holds the overall series advantage against Linfield with a 66-41 record against the Wildcats. However, the Lutes have been on the losing end of 21 of the last 23 matchups dating back to 2006.

PLU will play two against Linfield Sunday at noon and 2 p.m.