Friday, April 19, 2013

Softball team locks up two seed

After going 2-2 last weekend, Lutes open NWC tourney with Whitworth tomorrow, Linfield looms in title game

By Christian Dilworth, Sports Writer

After Saturday’s doubleheader with Linfield was postponed and pushed to Monday, Pacific Lutheran University’s women’s softball team pulled out the brooms on Sunday against Willamette, outscoring the Bearcats 18-6.
   
The Lutes improved their record to 25-13, clinching second place in the Northwest
Conference with two essentially meaningless games left to play against conference champion Linfield the following day. The Wildcats swept the Lutes aside.

PLU 8, Willamette 6

The game started with two quick scoreless innings, but changed in the middle innings when both teams were drawing blood back and forth. Willamette put up two in the third, which PLU matched, and then the Bearcats tallied another before PLU scored three runs to take a 5-3 lead.        

Willamette answered with three more of their own in the fifth to take the lead at 6-5, but the Lutes matched that and scored the deciding runs in the sixth.
   
A one-out fielding error put senior Montessa Califano, outfielder, on first base where she stole second and advanced to third on a bunt single by senior Melissa Harrelson, utility player. Senior Amanda Hall, PLU’s number three hitter and infielder, laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt that was mishandled at first and allowed Harrelson to score.
   
Willamette was knocking on the door with a final rally but left the bases loaded on a groundout to end the game.

PLU 10, Willamette 0

Compared to the hit fest that was the first game, the second game proved to be a different song and dance with nothing but exuberant Lute cheers.
   
Starting pitcher Leah Butters, a sophomore, limited the Bearcats to one hit and struck out two in a phenomenal game, improving her season record to 6-2.
   
On the other side of the ball, senior Kaaren Hatlen, infielder, provided plenty of power for PLU, tallying two long balls — a three-run blast in the second and a two-run drive off the scoreboard in the left-centerfield. She also contributed a sacrifice fly in the Lutes’ three-run first inning, giving her a line that showed 2-for-2 with two runs scored and a whopping six RBIs.
   
The Lutes finished with 10 hits, led by Harrelson, Hatlen and junior Lindsey Matsunaga.
   
Harrelson scored three runs, and Califano, Hall and Hatlen all scored twice.

Linfield 8, PLU 3

Neither team scored again after the game started back up again on Monday. The game picked back up in the sixth inning.
   
On Saturday, Linfield got up on the Lutes 3-1 early and added five runs in the sixth on short stop and junior Katy Brosig’s homer and a two-run double by outfielder Megan Wallo, a senior.
   
PLU only managed seven hits against Linfield pitcher Karina Paavola, who walked four and struck out seven in her complete-game performance. Matsunaga and junior Katie Lowery both had two hits to lead the Lutes.

Linfield 6, PLU 1

Butters nearly repeated her dominant Sunday performance against the Wildcats in the second game, but Linfield finally figured her out in the fifth inning.
   
Nursing a 1-0 lead, Butters found herself in a jam with the bases loaded when everything fell apart. The first run came off of a PLU fielding error, then the second off of a single and a sacrifice fly to make the score 3-1 Linfield. Soon after, catcher Lisa Yamamoto blasted a three-run homerun over the left field fence, her 12th of the season.
   
Butters allowed four earned runs on six hits while striking out four and walking two. Paavola was finished after five innings with five strikeouts, making way for Montana McNealy to come in for the win.
   
The Lutes travel to Linfield this weekend for the Northwest Conference Tournament that starts tomorrow. PLU plays Whitworth, which finished third in the NWC, in the first round.
   
After finishing second in the NWC last season, the Lutes won the conference tournament, beating Linfield twice in the championship round, before going on to win the national title.