Pella Regional Website
PELLA, Iowa – It was cold, it was wet and it was windy. In other words, the Linfield Wildcats felt right at home during a 17-0 drubbing of the Washington-St. Louis Bears in a winners bracket game Saturday at the NCAA Division III Pella Regional.
Top-ranked Linfield (43-2) advances to play Coe Sunday at 11 a.m. PDT. Wash. U. (32-11-1) met Wisconsin-Whitewater in an elimination game Saturday, but that contest was suspended by rain after four innings and will be resumed to begin Sunday's play.
Linfield piled up 17 hits and cashed in a litany of Wash. U. errors, wild pitches and passed balls on its way to becoming the highest-scoring team in program history with the playoff victory that was as cruel as it was poetic. Pitcher Claire Velaski struck out six batters in a five-inning no-hitter, her second of the season, to improve to 21-1.
With the game starting in a steady drizzle and a fierce Iowa wind, conditions were less than ideal for either team. But the Wildcats didn’t seem to notice, jumping to a 10-0 lead in a first inning that stretched nearly an hour.
Jaydee Baxter got the fireworks started in the first inning, singling to left field with one out. She then stole second base and moved to third on a throwing error by catcher Sondra Polonsky. Olivia Cook’s next pitch sailed high to the backstop, allowing Baxter to score.
The Wildcats were not done scoring in the first. A walk by Emilee Lepp, an error by second baseman Kathy Peter that allowed Staci Doucette to reach first, and a bunt single by Emily Keagbine loaded the bases. Karleigh Prestianni (Sr., Grants Pass, Ore.) slugged her ninth home run of the season, sending a pitch from Cook over the right-field fence to make it 5-0. Linfield added a run following Cook’s third wild pitch of the game.
Linfield scored three more runs following a triple off the center-field fence by Baxter, pushing the advantage to 9-0. Cook was replaced on the mound by Kathy Peter with a runner on third with one out. The Bears committed three errors and allowed seven unearned runs in a first inning that lasted 56 minutes.
As the rain persisted, the game was nearly halted. Ground crews applied drying agent to the field in an attempt to keep the tournament on schedule. Linfield didn’t let off the gas once play resumed, adding three more runs in the second inning. Jordan Mixsell and Baxter each came through with run-scoring singles and Kayla Hubrich scored on a wild pitch, one of five errant pitches for the Bears.
Wash U. loaded the bases on Velaski in the top of the fourth on a fielder’s choice and a pair of walks, but the southpaw struck out Polonsky to silence the Bears’ best scoring opportunity.
In the bottom of the inning, the ‘Cats padded their lead with three more runs, including Lepp’s NCAA-record 29th home run of the season.
Prestianni and Baxter each went 3-for-4 at the plate. Emily Keagbine was 2-for-4 with a double.
Linfield pushed its season runs total to 412, surpassing the school-record total of 409 set by the 2007 national championship club.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Saturday’s game matched two of Division’s III top hitting teams. . . the Wildcats are ranked second nationally with a .391 batting average while Wash. U. is third .385. . . seniors Alex Hartmann and Keagbine started for the 175th time of their careers. . . Friday’s postponement allowed tournament officials some needed time to attempt to repair the scoreboard, which unexpectedly went dark on Friday, but it remained out of service on Saturday. . . Lepp added another record to her growing resume, breaking the career mark for runs scored of 168 held by former Wildcats All-American Stephanie Rice. . . Linfield and Wash. U. met three times previously in the 2007 NCAA Finals, with the Wildcats winning two of those, including 10-2 in the championship game.
Tosses second no-hitter
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