Linfield clings to first place
Junior pitcher Brittany Miller threw the softball team to three of its four wins last weekend, going 19 innings.
The four wins bumped the ’Cats up to 30 wins this season. Linfield had a pair of doubleheaders on the road, taking both.
They defeated Pacific Lutheran University twice April 12, and repeated the feat against the University of Puget Sound on April 13.
The No. 1 and No. 2 teams are matching up this weekend as Pacific comes to McMinnville with hopes of an upset. The ’Cats are looking at this series as a chance to wrap up another conference title. The teams will meet for two doubleheaders April 19 and 20 at noon.
In the second game of the UPS matchup, the ’Cats took an early lead with two shots over the fence in the first inning and tallied five runs in the bottom of the inning.
Senior shortstop Meredith Brunette hit a three-run home run that brought in seniors outfielder Stephanie Rice and second baseman Jenny Marshall, who started the game off with three hits before the Loggers could manage an out.
The ’Cats settled down after their strong start, only scoring three more runs throughout the next seven innings. But they didn’t need any more help offensively, winning the game, 8-3.
Also, in the first inning, history was in the making as Miller became the first member in Linfield softball history to throw more than 400 strikeouts in a career. She fanned 11 of the 21 batters she faced on her way to six scoreless innings.
“I didn’t know I had done that until I read the article online,” Miller said. “It feels good to have my name on that accomplishment.”
With stellar pitching, the ’Cats didn’t need too much of a lift from the offense, but Brunette continued to lead the way with three RBIs. Marshall managed to cross the plate three times to add to Linfield’s total.
Sophomore pitcher Samantha Van Noy came in to close out the game and held the Loggers scoreless to the end, 8-0.
The day before, Linfield was in Tacoma, Wash., for a doubleheader against Pacific Lutheran.
The ’Cats came close to losing their second NWC game after being pushed into extra innings. Linfield and PLU took nine innings to decide the last game of the day.
The Lutes scored first in the bottom of the first. The ’Cats were able to answer back, but the tie was short-lived. They scored two runs in the bottom of the third to hold the lead for the next three innings.
Linfield needed two runs in the top of the sixth inning to keep the game going and avoid the loss.
The ’Cats resorted to small ball, advancing runners base-by-base with two bunts to start the inning. The game became a chess match as the coaches were moving players around trying to give their team the edge.
A big error by Pacific sophomore Lutheran catcher Vanessa Bryant brought Rice in for one run. Linfield needed one more to stay in it.
With runners on second and third and no outs, the odds were in Linfield’s favor to keep the game going. Senior Amanda Attleberger’s sacrifice fly ball to right field was enough to get Marshall in to score and turn the tables. After tying the game, the ’Cats couldn’t manage another run and the game was forced into extra innings.
“Our team almost always pulls through in those types of situations,” Miller said. “There wasn’t ever a doubt in my mind that we were going to win that game.”
Both teams scored in the seventh; and Linfield scored two runs in the ninth to hold the Lutes scoreless in their last at bat, giving Linfield the 6-4 win.
In the first game of the series, Miller showed her dominance, striking out 15 batters. Linfield broke the game open with four runs in the fifth inning. Miller gave up one hit the whole game.
The coming four-game matchup with Pacific will be a big step in deciding who will win the NWC title.