Whitworth Box Score
McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Getting complete-game pitching performances from Karina Paavola and Shelby VandeBergh, Linfield knocked off challengers Pacific and Whitworth on the opening day of the Northwest Conference Tournament Saturday at Del Smith Stadium.
The Wildcats (35-6) rallied from matching one-run deficits to stave off Pacific 3-2 in the day’s first contest, then squashed Whitworth 12-0 in five innings in the nightcap to remain the only unbeaten team in the four-team, double-elimination tournament.
Linfield advances to play the winner of an elimination game between Whitworth and Pacific Lutheran Sunday at 1:30 p.m. The victor would need to defeat the Wildcats twice in order to win the tournament and capture the NWC's automatic berth to the NCAA regional playoffs.
Linfield 3, Pacific 2
Paavola, a right-handed junior, rolled up a dozen strikeouts and pocketed her 20th pitching victory of the season against just two losses, pitching the full seven innings while yielding four hits and four walks with minimal collateral damage.
Linfield twice trailed by one run and each time rallied for the equalizer. A triple by Rachel Roberts on the game’s second at-bat gave Pacific the early momentum. Marissa Reichard tapped a single off Paavola, scoring Roberts and the Wildcats trailed 1-0 from the get go.
Linfield evened the score in the bottom of the first. Grace Middelstadt (Sr., Battle Ground, Wash.) walked, then moved all the way to third base on a wild pitch by Reichard and a passed ball that slipped by catcher Kylee Oshiro. Reichard mishandled a ball put in play by Lisa Yamamoto (Sr., Carson City, Nev.), enabling Middelstadt to tie the contest with an unearned run.
Pacific snatched a 2-1 advantage in the fourth when Moser’s double to center field scored pinch runner Megan Sigler all the way from first base.
Pacific parked runners at second and third in the top of the fifth but Paavola fanned Kaitlyn Shikada to turn the Boxers away.
Linfield answered with the tying and go-ahead runs in bottom of the inning. Megan Wallo and Karleigh Prestianni each smacked run-scoring hits, the latter a double to right field that put the ‘Cats in front 3-2.
Reichard, a freshman lefthander, held her own against the Wildcats, giving up six hits and two walks while recording six strikeouts. Reichard saw her record in the circle slip to 9-5.
Linfield 12, Whitworth 0
Prestianni went 3 for 3 with four runs batted in, Carson was also 3 for 3 and scored twice, and Garcia was 2 for 3 with three RBI.
VandeBergh held the Pirates to just two hits, logging three strikeouts and one walk. VandeBergh raised her record to 12-3.
The Wildcats positioned runners at second and third base in their first turn at bat. With one out, Whitworth ace Riley Fritz then struck out sluggers Yamamoto and Ashley Garcia both swinging to turn the Wildcats away.
Linfield continued to make good contact at the plate in the second inning. Erin Carson (Sr., Camas, Wash.) led off with a stand up double to start the frame and was sacrificed to third on a deep fly ball to center by Haylie Watson. Katy Brosig then stepped to the plate and delivered a sacrifice RBI and the Wildcats led 1-0.
Fritz walked McKenna Spieth (Sr., Vancouver, Wash.) before Middelstadt singled to put two runners aboard. A slap single by Wallo loaded the bases, bringing Prestianni to the plate. The senior All-American lined a pitch up the middle, scoring two runs. When Yamamoto’s single whizzed past Fritz’s glove and into the outfield, the Wildcats enjoyed a five-run lead and Garcia made it 6-0 with a double to the right-field wall.
Prestianni added to Whitworth’s misery in the fourth, plunking a two-run double to the center-field fence that sent Wallo and Middelstadt sprinting for home and ignited a six-run flurry.
Garcia sent a two-run triple to right and before Carson spanked a Taylor Gilbert pitch to the left-field wall, scoring Garcia, and Spieth drove a RBI single to center to pump the margin to 12-0.
Three Whitworth pitchers surrendered 14 hits to the hit-happy Wildcats. Fritz absorbed the loss to fall to 14-7.
Fritz and Jamie Brunner registered Whitworth’s only hits in the game.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Linfield went 5-0 against Pacific this spring, outscoring the Boxers 26-4, though two of the five games were decided by a combined four runs. . . Prestianni notched her 250th career base hit in the tournament’s opening game against Pacific. . . Paavola moved past former Wildcats all-star Michelle Morris into second place on Linfield’s career strikeouts ladder. . . Paavola now has amassed 361 career strikeouts.