-Photo by Jordan Jacobo/Review staff writer/photographer
The ’Cats took a step backward in their pursuit of a repeat national title after a loss in the second round of the West regional tournament May 8.
After squeezing out a 1-0 win against University of Redlands earlier the same day, the ’Cats couldn’t keep up with the No. 2-seeded Louisiana College Wildcats.
Linfield struggled to produce runs, something that has been a strength throughout the 2008 season. After getting three hits in the first game of the day, the ’Cats only managed one in the second game.
Louisiana’s freshman pitcher Kelly Williams had an impressive performance, keeping Linfield off the bases and getting a complete-game shutout.
The only Wildcat to get a hit against Louisiana was senior shortstop Meredith Brunette, who got a double in the sixth inning. However, her teammates couldn’t guide her home as the next two batters hit into outs to end the inning.
Linfield gave the ball to junior pitcher Brittany Miller to start on the mound. It was her second start of the day. However, Miller couldn’t replicate the success she had in the first-round game. Her tough outing was only her second loss of the season.
After giving up a run in both of the first two innings, head coach Jackson Vaughan replaced Miller with junior pitcher Kendra Strahm.
Strahm was able to hold Louisiana from scoring for two innings before the fifth inning when she gave up two runs.
Once Louisiana got a read on Strahm, Vaughan had to make another change, choosing sophomore pitcher Samantha Van Noy to finish the game.
The ’Cats were quickly put away in the top of the seventh inning to give Louisiana the win, 4-0.
In the first game of the day, the home plate at University of Texas in Tyler Ballpark was a lonely place to be for the first-round matchup as two of the country’s top Division III schools competed for a spot in the second round.
Linfield won the first-round contest, 1-0 in eight nail-biting innings. The win advanced them to the second round.
Linfield and University of Redlands were forced to go into extra innings on the morning of May 8 in a defensive struggle that saw no runs scored until the bottom of the eighth inning.
The Wildcats’ powerful offense was held to just three hits through the eight innings by Redlands all-conference and all-region pitcher Katie Brnca.
Brnca pitched a solid game against the Wildcats, not allowing the first 30 batters to score. But Brnca had a difficult time in the bottom of the eighth inning.
The first two batters were able to get on base for the Wildcats. A walk and an error by Brnca gave Linfield its best chance to score with no outs and the top of the batting line-up on its way.
Next up at the plate was senior second baseman Jenny Marshall, one of Linfield’s most efficient hitters with a .510 batting average on the season.
Marshall put Brnca’s pitch into play and advanced both runners, but was thrown out at first on the sacrifice hit. Even with the out Linfield was in great position to take the game with freshman outfielder McKensie Booth only 60 feet from glory.
With first base open, Redlands’ head coach had Brnca intentionally walk senior shortstop Meredith Brunette to give them a better shot at a potential double play to not allow the Wildcats to score.
The walk was Brnca’s fourth on the game and loaded the bases for the ’Cats who were one hit away from winning.
Senior first baseman Amanda Attleberger was at the plate with a chance to put the game away.
Many glorious moments have come out of times like this, but rarely is a game decided in this fashion.
The game’s last pitch wasn’t a strikeout or a hit. It was a pitch just too inside that grazed Attleberger, allowing her to advance to first, advancing Brunette to second, senior outfielder Stephanie Rice to third and Booth to home.
With such low offensive production from the bats of Linfield, junior pitcher Brittany Miller had extra pressure to not let the Bulldogs get going offensively.
She had a strong performance to start the playoffs, giving up only six hits and striking out nine batters in eight innings.
The victory put Miller’s season record to 17-1 with an ERA of only 0.88 in 22 appearances this season.
Next up for the ’Cats is an elimination game against the Chapman University May 9 at noon central time.