Softball swings toward conference title with 11-game winning streak

Senior shortstop Emily Keagbine swings while up to bat against Whitworth University on Feb. 26 at a home game. The Wildcats won the doubleheader 10-1 and 12-2. Photo courtesy of Kelly Bird

The ’Cats will have a rematch against Pacific Lutheran University on April 2 in a noon doubleheader at home.

The softball team is on an 11-game winning streak and has retained its No. 1 national ranking with a 21-2 overall record. The team traveled to California for a series of six doubleheaders during Spring Break but not before suffering its first loss of the season against PLU by a score of 10-2 March 12.

PLU’s junior pitcher Stacey Hagensen dominated the game, holding the ’Cats to just three hits. The Lutes handed senior pitcher Claire Velaski her first loss of the season.

’Cats junior designated hitter Staci Doucette said the loss was a reminder to the team that there is room for improvement, but she also credited PLU’s quality play.

“We made some uncharacteristic mistakes in the first game, and we can’t afford to give good teams any extra opportunities,” she said.

The ’Cats rallied in the second game of the doubleheader and held a 6-3 lead when the game was called because of darkness. The teams will rejoin the game this weekend when Linfield will hosts the April 2 doubleheader.

The team has dropped only one more game since the loss at PLU, which came at the hands of No. 15 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps College on March 18 in Claremont, Cali.

Junior pitcher Lauren Harvey said the losses have given the team the motivation and drive to capture the Northwest Conference title.

“We all have the same goal in mind — just to take it each weekend at a time, and we all have a lot of faith and confidence in each other, which is special,” she said.

Coach Jackson Vaughan said the Spring Break doubleheaders against Claremont and then No. 6 University of Redlands were the highlight of the trip.

“Those were fairly big series because we have played them for a long time and meet them at regionals,” he said.

Harvey also picked out those games as significant.

“Beating Redlands twice was pretty big since they [were] ranked sixth,” she said. “Everyone did pretty well, and the outfield really played well in the Claremont games.

The ’Cats swept the four other California teams they faced between March 17 and March 23.

They returned to Oregon to take on conference opponent George Fox University in a doubleheader March 26. The ’Cats not only swept the Bruins but held them scoreless in the 8-0 and 12-0 wins.

Velaski and Harvey each added a win to their season records of 10-1 and 7-0, respectively, with the wins over the Bruins.

Junior catcher Emilee Lepp continued to find success at the plate, hitting another solo home run in the first game, which brought her season home run tally to a Northwest-Conference-leading 16.

Senior outfielder Kayla Hubrich also did well in the first game, going 3-for-4 and driving in three RBIs.

Three players were 3-for-3 in the second game: Doucette, senior shortstop Emily Keagbine and sophomore third baseman Karleigh Prestianni. Keagbine went 5-for-6 during the two games and hit her 10th home run of the season in the second game.

Yet another of the ’Cats’ doubleheaders was postponed March 27 as a result of rain. The games against Lewis & Clark College have been rescheduled for April 7.

“It will be a good chance to see how much we’ve improved because we have played a lot of games since then,” Vaughan said.

The ’Cats will also take on the University of Puget Sound at home in another doubleheader at noon on April 3.

Rae Smith/Staff reporter
Rae Smith can be reached at

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