Linfield’s softball team discovered in the wee hours of the morning on May 10 where it will travel for postseason play.
No, it isn’t to Texas or California as some expected, but to Indianola, Iowa.
Most of the Midwest Regional teams are from area states: Minnesota, Missouri, Illinois and Iowa. And Linfield, the No. 1 seed in the West Region, was not given any favors by being shipped to the Midwest Regional. As the crow flies, the Wildcats will travel 1,500 miles — the farthest of the eight teams.
Linfield began its playoff run in normal fashion: with a bang.
The Wildcats scored eight runs, all via a long ball in the second inning off University of Chicago pitching.
Freshman third baseman Karliegh Prestianni started and finished the scoring with solo homers. Sophomore designated player Sami Keim added a two-run bomb, and sophomore catcher Emilee Lepp launched a grand slam.
Junior shortstop Emily Keagbine belted a three-run home run in the fourth to extend Linfield’s lead to 11-2.
U of C fought back for three runs in the top of the fifth before sophomore first baseman Stacie Doucette’s two-run single gave Linfield a 13-5 win via the mercy rule.
The ’Cats 2-6 hitters went 7-13 with six runs scored and 11 runs batted in.
Sophomore center fielder Jaydee Baxter was 3-3 with a double and two singles.
With a lot riding on this tournament, which started May 13, let’s analyze the top four seeds battling for the Midwest Regional title.
1. Linfield Wildcats (36-5 overall, 26-1 conference)
Key wins: Pacific University (x4), Willamette University (x4)
Outlook: The Wildcats avoided past nemesis University of Texas at Tyler but still have a tough region to claw through. Loaded with players hungry for the first regional title since 2007, Linfield will be difficult to beat, especially if its pitching and defense are in normal form. With 1.48 home runs per game, the No. 8 Wildcats could face a higher caliber of pitching than in the Northwest Conference. Linfield will look to improve on a 20-game winning streak.
2. Illinois Wesleyan University Titans (30-14 overall, 9-5 conference)
Key wins: Washington University in St. Louis, Carthage College
Outlook: The game is about scoring more runs than the other team. If the Titans want to reign supreme, their pitching and defense will need to lead the way. Having a struggling offense does not help, but leading the nation with a .985 fielding percentage should push the Titans to some victories.
3. Simpson College Storm (31-10 overall, 14-2 conference)
Key wins: Central College (x2), Luther College
Outlook: Playing at home will be a major advantage for the Storm. With only three losses at home, this team will be comfortable within its surroundings. Senior pitcher Whitney Oviatt, Iowa Conference pitcher of the year, has started 29 games, but the team behind her does not have much experience. Also, none of the Storm players has playoff experience.
4. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athena (33-8 overall, 21-3 conference)
Key wins: Linfield (x2), University of Redlands (x3)
Outlook: With a strong schedule, CMS could be the most tested team in the regional competition. Freshman Harmony Palmer will shoulder much of the offensive load. She leads the team in all offensive categories and hits .473 with eight home runs. The pitching is also stellar with a team ERA of 2.05. Look for the Athena to compete for the Midwest title along with Linfield.
You can follow The Review @Linfield_Review for updates on the Midwest Regional.
FreelancerKurtis Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org