Pacific Lutheran Game 1 Box
Pacific Lutheran Game 2 Box
McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Three come-from-behind victories in the same day?
It proved to be too much to ask for the Linfield Wildcats, who habitually dug themselves holes Sunday at the Northwest Conference Playoff Tournament. Twice, the nation’s top-ranked Division III team rallied from late-inning deficits to avoid elimination, but the Wildcats ran out of lives when it mattered most, losing 3-0 to rival Pacific Lutheran in the championship game at Del Smith Stadium.
PLU (37-11) earned the NWC’s automatic berth to the NCAA Division III playoffs, its first postseason invitation since 2003. Linfield (38-5), the defending national champion, is left to rely on an at-large berth to continue its season in the 60-team national tournament.
PACIFIC LUTHERAN 3, LINFIELD 0 (Championship)
Lutes flamethrower Stacey Hagensen handcuffed the Wildcats to just two hits and no runs in earning her 20th victory of the season.
Kaaren Hatlen and Katie Lowery each drove in runs in the top of the first inning as PLU took a 2-0 advantage in the early going.
The Lutes added to their lead with Amanda Hall’s solo home run over the left-field wall with one out in the fourth inning, chasing Wildcats starter Shelby VandeBergh from the game.
Hagensen took a no-hitter into the fifth, before Jordan Mixsell put a blemish on the stat sheet with a fruitless single to right field. The Wildcats were unable to push the baserunner along and the score remained 3-0 in the Lutes' favor.
Karleigh Prestianni accounted for Linfield’s only other hit, a single in the seventh.
LINFIELD 3, PACIFIC LUTHERAN 2
Wildcats All-American Staci Doucette lived up to her billing with a two-out, two-run, bottom-of-the-seventh inning single that forced a winner-take-all game in the nightcap.
Doucette went 2-for-3 in the game.
The ‘Cats threatened first, putting runners at second and third and two outs in the second, but Bri Brewer grounded out to end the inning.
The Lutes seized commanding the sixth, loading the bases on VandeBergh, the Wildcats starter. Hall then crushed a double through the left side of the infield, putting two runs on the board.
Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the seventh, the Wildcats mounted their comeback. Mixsell sent a looping single to center field, then moved to second on a fielder’s choice. Pinch hitter Lisa Yamamoto (Sr., Carson City, Nev.) came through in the clutch, dropping a ball into the outfield that scored Mixsell, cutting the deficit to 2-1.
Emilee Lepp, the leadoff hitter who was 0-for-3 to that point, singled to put runners at first and second with two outs. Hagensen, who was pitching in relief, hit Jaydee Baxter with a pitch, loading the bases for Doucette's miracle finish.
Karina Paavola earned the win in relief, improving to 19-2. Hagensen took the loss, dropping to 19-6.
LINFIELD 4, WILLAMETTE 2
A dramatic three-run homer by Katy Brosig in the bottom of the sixth inning carried the Wildcats past the Bearcats in a loser-out game.
The Bearcats jumped on the Wildcats for two runs in the first inning. After Lauren Harvey walked leadoff hitter Suzannah Von trapp, WU cashed in a fielding error by Brewer, the second baseman who was making her first start in place of regular Ashley Garcia.
Brosig doubled down the third-base line with one out in the third inning, awakening the Wildcats’ offense. Haylie Watson then drilled a double to the same location, scoring Brosig. But pinch runner Kate Hasty was picked off at third base, stifling Linfield’s momentum.
Harvey allowed three hits and a couple of walks during the first two innings before being replaced by Paavola. Harvey struck out just two of the 11 batters she faced.
The game remained without a run until the sixth, when Lepp reached base on an error and Doucette was hit by a pitch. Brosig swatted her sixth home run of the season over the left-field wall off Bearcats ace Alex Watilo, touching off a wild celebration at home plate.
In the WU seventh, Jessica Barry reached on an error, the Wildcats’ third of the day, then Kelli Snyder singled and advanced to second on the throw. With two outs and the Bearcats' season on the line, Paavola got Mica Romero to whiff on a 1-2 pitch, ending the game.
Brosig was the only player with more than one hit, going 2-for-3. Willamette outhit Linfield 7-4 and committed two fewer errors, but the Bearcats stranded 10 runners to the Wildcats’ two.
‘CAT SCRATCH: The NCAA Division III playoff field is expected to be announced Monday, May 7. . . for Linfield and PLU, the closest regional playoff sites geographically are Pella, Iowa, and Tyler, Texas . . .in previous postseasons, Linfield has been sent to California (three times), Texas (twice), Iowa (twice) and Louisiana. . . Lepp and Doucette each played their 190th career games on Sunday, surpassing the Linfield career standard of 188 held by graduated All-American Alex Hartmann. . . Del Smith Stadium enjoyed packed crowds throughout the two-day tournament. . . Paavola, who moved up to No. 5 on the single-season victories list with her 19th win, recorded a tournament-best 11 strikeouts in 17 innings. . . Linfield, the Division III home runs leader, hit just two homers in the five tournament games. . . Doucette led the Wildcats statistically with a .364 average, however, Linfield hit just .202 as a team.