Pacific Lutheran Box Score
McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Regular-season runner-up Pacific Lutheran struck a victory for the underdog, bouncing nine-time Northwest Conference titlist Linfield 3-1 in Saturday’s conference playoff tournament semifinal.
After splitting their season series 2-2 with the road team winning all four contests, the Lutes took the rubber match and, along with the Wildcats, are among three teams that remain alive at the four-team double-elimination tournament at Linfield’s Del Smith Stadium.
Earlier Saturday, Linfield blanked fourth-seeded George Fox 3-0 to set up the rematch with PLU.
In order to win its second straight NWC tournament title, Linfield (36-4) must win three straight games Sunday starting against Willamette at 11 a.m. The winner then must defeat PLU twice in order to earn the tournament crown.
LINFIELD 3, GEORGE FOX 0
Linfield senior Lauren Harvey painted a two-hit masterpiece, striking out seven and helping carry the top-seeded Wildcats to a 3-0 shutout of George Fox in the tournament’s opening game. Harvey’s 10th career shutout earned Wildcats skipper Jackson Vaughan his 400th career victory.
Staci Doucette and Karleigh Prestianni each delivered a couple of hits for the ‘Cats, who managed six singles and a double in the contest.
The game remained scoreless until the Linfield third when Emilee Lepp singled, stole second and scored after a single up the middle by Doucette.
Linfield added to its lead in the fifth on Doucette’s RBI single through the left side of the infield that plated Jaydee Baxter. Prestianni then drilled a double to right-center field, driving home Doucette.
PACIFIC LUTHERAN 3, LINFIELD 1
The contest featured a head-to-head matchup between dominating pitchers Karina Paavola of Linfield and Kaaren Hatlen from PLU. However, four costly errors by the Wildcats proved to be their undoing.
PLU capitalized on a Linfield fielding error to snatch a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Katie Lowery singled, advanced to second base on a bunt single from Amanda Hall, then scored when Glenelle Nitta’s ground ball was mishandled by Wildcats shortstop Katy Brosig.
In the PLU fifth, the Lutes nearly broke the game open. Paavola walked Amanda Goings, then surrendered a hit up the middle to Montessa Califano, putting runners at first and second bases. Stacey Hagensen then sent a ball deep to the right-field corner, where Jordan Mixsell was able to make the catch on the run. With Goings sitting at third, Kaaren Hatlen drove another high ball to the outfield, but Baxter was there to make then catch, then gunned down Goings at home plate for the third out.
The Lutes pushed a runner to third base again in the sixth, but two costly errors allowed the Lutes to create some breathing room. Lindsey Matsunaga reached base on a fielder’s choice, but a fielding miscue allowed both Matsunaga and Lowery to score a pair of unearned runs.
Lepp homered in the bottom of the sixth to cut the deficit to 3-1. Prestianni walked, then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Hagensen, who came in to pitch in relief of Hatlen, got Bri Brewer to ground out to end the inning.
Lowery went 2-for-3 to pace a seven-hit PLU attack.
Paavola suffered just her second loss against 13 wins. She struck out six batters and walked two.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Prior to Saturday’s first pitch, the Linfield softball stadium was formally dedicated in honor of longtime McMinnville aviation entrepreneur Del Smith. . .Baxter accounted for two stolen bases on Saturday. . . Harvey achieved her 50th career victory in the pitching circle, becoming just the third Wildcat in program history to reach that plateau. . . Vaughan, in his 11th season, improved his all-time ledger to 400-87-1. . . Sunday’s champion receives the automatic berth to the NCAA Division III tournament, which begins May 10 at eight regional campus sites.
IN OTHER GAMES SATURDAY: PLU defeated Willamette 3-1 in the day’s second opening-round game . . .Willamette then eliminated George Fox 5-1 ending the Bruins’ season at 20-22.