Wildcats strike out at nationals after record-setting season
A record-setting year for the Linfield softball team came to an unlucky end as Linfield lost in the championship series to East Texas Baptist University.
After sweeping their way through the Midwest regional, the Wildcats began their World Series run with victories against Luther College and DePauw University.
Linfield dug an 0-3 hole against Luther after a third inning three-run homer.
The Norse then pulled its starting pitcher in favor of All-American senior Kim Lambert.
But the ’Cats were unfazed and clawed back with leadoff, solo home runs from sophomore first baseman Staci Doucette and freshman third baseman Karleigh Prestianni in the fourth and sixth respectively.
Later in the sixth, sophomore centerfielder Jaydee Baxter hit a two-run bomb, putting the Wildcats ahead for good 4-3 and sending Linfield to the winner’s bracket of the World Series.
Junior pitcher Claire Velaski gave up just two hits in five innings of relief.
Facing DePauw, Linfield strung together three singles in the fifth to account for two runs. Doucette and sophomore catcher Emilee Lepp drove the runs in and junior left fielder Kayla Hubrich had three hits in the 2-1 win.
The Wildcats took a 2-1 lead in the third against East Texas Baptist in game three on a Baxter homer and Lepp RBI double.
After another ETB run in the fourth, Tiger freshman first baseman Lauryn McCurry hit a grand slam off Velaski in the sixth to secure a 6-2 win.
Facing a doubleheader May 24, Linfield took batting practice off the other first team All-American pitcher Molly Rathbun of Eastern Connecticut State University.
Playing after its first loss in 27 games, the Wildcats unloaded frustration, and hits, on the 30-1 pitcher.
Baxter’s two-run single in the first and bunt RBI in the third propelled Linfield to a 10-1 win.
Sophomore designated player Sami Keim and junior shortstop Emily Keagbine also had multiple RBI games.
The win pitted the ’Cats against ETB for the division III championship. Already with a loss, Linfield needed two wins to secure the title.
The Wildcats struck early with a two-run homer from Doucette. Prestianni’s two-run single in the fifth put Linfield ahead 4-1.
ETB batted in the bottom of the seventh down 4-3 after two more one-run innings.
Benefitting from three hits, an error, and a wonky groundball, the Tigers scored two runs to claim the championship.
However, the loss comes with silver linings; Keagbine, Doucette, Lepp and Velaski were named to the all-tournament team. Prior to the series, Doucette and Prestianni were named first team All-Americans along with Lepp earning a second team nod.
Freelancer Kurtis Williams can be reached at email@example.com