Friday, April 20, 2012

Softball wants to top NWC competition

‘We can beat any team that stands in our way’

By Nathan Shoup, Sports Reporter

A No. 5 national ranking, a 34-10 overall record and a 24-4 conference record would win just about every regular season conference championship in the country.

Unfortunately for the Pacific Lutheran softball team, those credentials don’t win the Northwest Conference.

The Lutes finished one game behind reigning national champion and current No. 1 nationally ranked Linfield. for the second year in a row.

The Lutes have secured the No. 2 seed in the NWC Tournament, which will be hosted by regular season champion Linfield Saturday and Sunday.

The Lutes won only one of six contests with Linfield last season and fell to the Wildcats in the championship series of the NWC Tournament. PLU had more success against the defending champions this season, splitting the four games.

“We are going into the NWC Tournament to win,” said pitcher and outfielder senior Stacey Hagensen. “That is the only way we can get an automatic bid to the playoffs and not allow other people to control our destiny.”

The NWC gets one automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The bid goes to the champion of the NWC Tournament. An at-large bid is also possible for a team that does not receive an automatic bid, but is deserving of an NCAA tournament appearance, which is decided by a selection committee.

Last season the Lutes did not receive an at-large bid. If unable to secure the automatic bid this weekend, they said they would feel better about receiving an at-large bid.

“We have put in a lot of work since not receiving an at-large bid last year in order to put ourselves in a position to earn to earn the automatic bid or earn respect for the at-large bid,” pitcher and infielder junior Kaaren Hatlen said.

Despite Linfield being the clear competition in the upcoming NWC Tournament. the Lutes are not looking past Willamette, the No. 3 seed and first round opponent.

“Each team can compete on any given day and each loss is one more reason for the NCAA to keep us out of the tournament,” said Hatlen. “We are showing up with the will to win, knowing that we can beat any team that stands in our way.”