East Texas Baptist Box Score
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – Linfield took a two-run lead into the bottom of the seventh inning but couldn’t hold on, falling 5-4 to East Texas Baptist in the national championship game of the NCAA Division III Tournament Monday at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Gelein Field.
The Wildcats outplayed the Tigers over the first four innings, but East Texas, perhaps more comfortable in the sweltering temperatures, had the Wildcats on their heels in the late going.
Rochelle Friend singled on the game’s first at-bat and Linfield jumped out of the gates with a two-run homer by Staci Doucette in the first inning.
In the fourth, ETBU’s Rebecca Young drilled a ball deep to center field that glanced off the wall, buying Porsha Harrison enough time to score from second base.
The Wildcats went back in front 4-1 in the fifth after Karleigh Prestianni came through with a two-run single on Tigers starter Alicia Wright.
Down two runs in the sixth, ETBU loaded the bases with no outs on Linfield reliever Claire Velaski. An error allowed Stacy Havner to reach base and score a run, cutting the Wildcats’ lead to 4-3. Velaski, who replaced starter Lauren Harvey, then got three consecutive batters to ground out to wriggle the Wildcats out of the jam.
Friend singled to begin the seventh inning, but reliever Ayrika Henderson retired the next three batters to end the inning.
Trailing by one run in the seventh, Brooke Martin singled to left field, then was sacrificed to second by Young. A fielding error by Emily Keagbine allowed the Tigers to put runners at first and third, then Meghan Fisher drove home the tying run with a single through the right side of the infield.
With two outs, Havner tapped a bouncing single that skipped awkwardly off the infield dirt and scooted just past the glove of Alex Hartmann.
“We had our opportunities to go up by four or five runs early in the game,” said Wildcats coach Jackson Vaughan. “ETBU is such a scrappy team that I knew we didn’t want to only be ahead by one run going into the last couple of innings.”
“Losing like that is hard,” said Friend, who played more than 160 games in a Linfield uniform. “It’s bittersweet. We made the championship game but it’s hard to go out like this in my last game.”
Friend went 3-for-4 in the game, Prestianni drove in a pair of runs and Emilee Lepp scored twice for the Wildcats, who ended a record-setting season with an overall record of 42-7.
Doucette hit her school-record 20th home run of the season, giving Linfield 77 homers for the season to easily surpass the previous NCAA record of 72.
Linfield 10, Eastern Connecticut 1
Facing its third NFCA All-America pitcher in three days, the Wildcats erupted for 10 runs in a 10-1 dismantling of Eastern Connecticut State in a losers bracket game earlier Monday. The win over the Warriors vaulted the Wildcats into the championship game.
Lepp went 2-for-3 with a double and scored a pair of runs, Keagbine knocked home a couple of runs and the Wildcats pounced on All-America pitching ace Molly Rathbun for five runs in the first two innings to take command early.
With the Linfield hitters making good contact on Rathbun's deliveries, the Warriors were forced to bring in change-of-pace pitcher Kassondra Silva to try and slow the Wildcats down.
The timely hits continued against Silva, who surrendered five more runs before game was halted after five innings by the eight-run rule.
Sami Keim was 1-for-2, though she drove in three runs, including drawing a bases-loaded walk in the fourth.
Velaski earned the pitching victory for Linfield to improve to 20-3. Velaski scattered five hits, only giving up a solo home run to Priscilla Alicea in the fourth.
Rathbun, a first team All-American, suffered just her second loss of the season to fall to 30-2.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Temperatures topped 90 degrees, breaking a local record. . . Rathbun came into the tournament riding a string of four straight shutouts with a 0.66 ERA and was 30-1 in the circle. . . including Rathbun, the Wildcats faced and defeated three NFCA All-America pitchers during their run at the Finals, including both first team selections (Rathbun and Luther’s Kim Lambert). . . .Doucette, who was anointed a first team NFCA All-American for the second straight year, set single-season records for batting average (.477), slugging percentage (.935), on-base percentage (.550), home runs (20), RBIs (66) and total bases (143). . . named to the all-tournament team from Linfield were Velaski, Lepp, Doucette, and Keagbine. . . the Wildcats are expected to return to Oregon Tuesday afternoon and should return to the McMinnville campus between 3 and 4 o'clock.
Two clutch hits, two runs scored
Director of Sports Information
McMinnville, OR 97128