Linfield’s softball team ended its regular season April 24 and 25 with four wins against second-place Pacific University.
Despite having a playoff berth already locked up, the games were still crucial.
“These games are all so big in seeding us for regionals,” freshman infielder Karliegh Prestianni said.
Senior pitcher Samantha Van Noy started her last regular season game and gave up eight runs on eight hits in two innings.
Trailing 2-8 in the third inning, Linfield closed the gap with three runs on a home run by Prestianni.
Sophomore Emilee Lepp added another three-run shot of her own in the fourth before Prestianni hit a two-run bomb to put the Wildcats in front 10-8, a lead they would hold for the rest of the game.
“Getting down like that, we don’t really ever get nervous because we know that with one or two swings of the bat we can tie the game up,” Prestianni said. “All the way through the lineup, we’re a threat like that.”
Junior Claire Velaski allowed no runs on two hits in three innings of relief of Van Noy.
Pacific sophomore pitcher Lauren Tuey had a rough fifth inning, walking five batters, hitting two and throwing five wild pitches, resulting in six runs and a 16-8 victory for Linfield.
The Wildcats and the Boxers pitched their aces in Game 2: sophomore Lauren Harvey for Linfield and senior Miranda McNealy for Pacific.
Junior second baseman Alex Hartmann broke open the scoring with a two-run double. She was driven home by a double from junior left fielder Kayla Hubrich, putting the ’Cats up 3-0.
Sophomore catcher Sami Keim’s grand slam gave Linfield a 7-1 in the fifth.
Errors led to all three Pacific runs as Harvey gave up no unearned runs on six hits while striking out seven in a complete game.
The series moved to Forest Grove on April 25, but Linfield brought its bats once again against Pacific’s secondary pitching.
The Wildcats, the No. 1 home run hitting team in Division III, hit three more long balls.
Prestianni had her 13th of the year — a three-run bomb. Keim had a two-run homer, her second in two days. First baseman Stacie Doucette tied a Linfield record with her 14th of the season, which leads D-III softball.
The team averages just fewer than 1.5 home runs per game, a statistic that could break D-III records if they continue this success.
Although she hit three long balls and drove in 12 runs on the weekend, Prestianni said she does not look for home runs.
“I’m definitely not trying to [hit home runs],” she said. “I’m just trying to get a hit every time, and I guess it just happens.”
The ’Cats won 16-5 and also received major contributions from sophomore centerfielder Jaydee Baxter, who drove in three, and Velaski struck out six batters in two innings.
With 59 home runs, the team has shattered its single-season record of 50 and two more than the program did from 1993-2004.
Linfield swept the Boxers with a 5-3 win in the regular season finale.
Doucette, Baxter and junior shortstop Emily Keagbine all had RBI doubles and provided enough support for Harvey to pick up her 16th victory.
The Wildcats have a week off before heading to regionals, bringing their 35-5 record with them. The team moved up to No. 11 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll and has an identical record to the No. 1 team, Louisiana College.
Senior right fielder Rochelle Friend has been in three regionals and helped win a national championship in 2007. She knows the level of competition will be a lot higher than the NWC.
“Our region is by far the toughest region there is,” she said. “The teams [at regionals] are a lot better than the ones we play in conference.”
Linfield opens up postseason play May 13.
FreelancerKurtis Williams can be reached at email@example.com