The softball team finished a makeup game in a decisive 11-1 win against the University of Puget Sound on April 12. The team also traveled to Salem and swept Willamette University in four games played on April 9 and 10.
The ’Cats offense dominated April 12 and broke records on the way to the team’s win. Five players hit six homeruns. Junior catcher Emilee Lepp hit one of the six, and her now 24 homeruns are a school record that ties the NCAA Division-III single season homerun record.
“To have hit a record amount of homeruns when we haven’t even finished the season is very impressive,” head coach Jackson Vaughan said.
Junior outfielders Jaydee Baxter and Jordan Mixsell, and freshman infielder Ashley Garcia also hit one homerun each while senior shortstop Emily Keagbine blasted two. The six homeruns brought the team’s season total to 80, which broke the NCAA record of 78 set by last year’s team.
Pitchers senior Claire Velaski and junior Lauren Harvey pitched two innings apiece, and freshman Karina Paavola closed the final frame of the five-inning game. Harvey was credited with the win, which puts her at a perfect 11-0 on the season.
Paavola said the ’Cats dominant offense boosts the pitching staff.
“It’s nice because you know if you give up runs they’ll be there to back you up,” she said, “Even if the game is tight, they’ll come through for you.”
The ’Cats held Willamette scoreless in both games of the first doubleheader, winning 3-0 and 2-0, respectively. Keagbine went two-for-three and was the only player from either team with multiple hits in the first game. Lepp and freshman outfielder Katy Brosig provided RBIs with two and one, respectively.
Velaski gave up only two hits in the five innings she pitched before Paavola finished off the game’s last two innings allowing only one hit.
Paavola struck out seven batters in her eighth win during the second game of the day. She pitched four no-hit innings in relief of Harvey who gave up just two hits in the first three innings of the game.
Vaughan said Paavola’s role, often as a reliever, is challenging.
“It’s not easy to come into the middle of games but she’s handled it well and at times has been extremely dominant,” he said.
This time it was junior first baseman Staci Doucette who hit two-for-three and knocked in the team’s two runs with her 15th homerun of the season.
The April 10 doubleheader saw more offensive fireworks. Seven Linfield players recorded hits, five of which earned RBI. Keagbine and Doucette had multiple hits including one homerun each.
Lepp hit her 21st homrun and broke Doucette’s previous school record of 20 homeruns in a single season.
Lepp, Baxter and senior second baseman Alex Hartmann all contributed two RBIs to the team’s 8-5 win. Velaski picked up the win taking her to 15-1 on the season.
Three Linfield players hit homers during the second game. Lepp hit two and Keagbine and Mixsell each hit one. The three were responsible for driving in all of the team’s runs in the 9-3 victory.
Harvey pitched a complete game, improved to 10-0 and allowed just three hits through the seven innings.
The ’Cats’ overall record is 34-2 and they are 23-1 in conference play. They are on a 24-game winning streak and need one more victory to clench a share in the Northwest Conference title.
“It’s not about the winnning streak as much as it is about playing well and going into the playoffs on a strong note,” Doucette said.
The ’Cats will finish regular season play this weekend against Pacific University in Forest Grove at noon on April 16 and then at home at noon again on April 17.
Rae Smith/Staff reporter
Rae Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.