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NEWBERG, Ore. – Déjà vu all over again?
Closely mirroring the outcomes of the previous day, the Linfield Wildcats swept the George Fox Bruins in a Northwest Conference doubleheader Sunday at Morse Field, first with a five-inning 12-3 romp, then by way of a home-run fueled comeback that saw the Wildcats rally from four runs down with two outs in the seventh inning for an 8-6 win.
The games were eerily similar to Saturday’s twinbill, in which eighth-ranked Linfield (28-5, 20-2 NWC) won the opener 11-0 in five innings before overcoming a two-run, two-out deficit in the seventh to beat George Fox (12-12, 15-21 NWC ) 9-8 in the second game.
And like Saturday, it was emerging star Erin Carson who provided the game-winning hit when the Wildcats needed it most, this time a two-run homer in Game 2, the first of her collegiate career.
The Wildcats hit four home runs on the day, including two by sophomore slugger Lisa Yamamoto. Ashley Garcia went 4 for 7, scored twice and drove in four runs.
With the two wins, Linfield moved to within one victory of clinching at least a share of its 10th straight NWC championship. The ‘Cats also avoided breaking the program’s 13-year string of softball wins over the Bruins, now at 48 consecutive games and counting.
Yamamoto and Haylie Watson both homered as Linfield built a 9-1 advantage midway through the third inning and never looked back.
Garcia went 2 for 3 and drove in four runs, and Karleigh Prestianni singled, doubled and scored three times.
Linfield hurlers Karina Paavola and Maddy Dunn combined to hold GFU to four hits while striking out six. Paavola collected the win to improve to 16-2.
Trailing by four runs and down to their final out, the Wildcats staged a frantic rally to turn away the upset-minded Bruins.
After Katy Brosig and McKenna Spieth each grounded out to begin the seventh, Grace Middelstadt drew a walk off the pitch of Amy DenDekker. Megan Wallo then singled and Prestianni moved to first base on a error by DenDekker that allowed Middelstadt to score from second. That set the stage for a dramatic game-tying home run by Yamamoto, who delivered her NWC-leading 10th home run of the season deep beyond the outfield wall.
Garcia singled on the next at-bat and Carson powered the rest of the way with the clinching home run.
Yamamoto, Garcia and Carson each finished with two hits as the Wildcats outhit the Bruins 9-6.
Linfield found itself in an early hole when George Fox plated three runs in the first and then opened up a 6-2 lead after three complete innings. Shelby VandeBergh lasted just 2 1/3 innings in the pitching circle before being relieved by Montana McNealy. A sophomore lefty, McNealy confined the Bruins to two hits while chalking up seven strikeouts.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Sunday’s first game was hampered by occasional bursts of rain, causing delays of 28 and 26 minutes. . . since splitting its first four NWC contests with Whitworth to begin the season, the Wildcats have reeled off 18 straight conference wins. . . Linfield has hit 14 home runs in its last eight games, including five by Yamamoto. . . the Wildcats enjoyed just 16 HRs during the season’s first 23 games.
NEXT: Linfield hosts Willamette Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in the final regular-season home contests of 2013. Live internet play-by-play coverage starts at approximately 5:20. A sweep of the Bearcats would secure the NWC title outright and assure Linfield of the right to host the NWC Playoff Tournament, April 20-21. The winner of the four-team, double-elimination tourney earns the NWC's automatic berth to the NCAA Division III playoffs.