Roanoke Box Score
SALEM, Va. – The surging Linfield Wildcats will play at least one more day. The defending national champion Wildcats hit four home runs, including two by Emilee Lepp, to survive a pair of loser-out games Sunday, eliminating Tufts 4-1 in the midday sun, then Roanoke 6-1 under the lights during the third day of action at the NCAA Division III Finals at Moyer Sports Complex.
Linfield (45-6) continues its quest for a second consecutive crown and third straight appearance in the national title game. The Wildcats must defeat Montclair State Monday at 8 a.m. PDT for the chance to battle Northwest Conference counterpart Pacific Lutheran for the NCAA championship later at 10:30. The Lutes survived a tense 12-inning marathon Monday, defeating Montclair State 2-1 to hand the Cardinals their first loss of the tournament. A second game, should PLU lose, would be played Tuesday at 8 a.m.
LINFIELD 6, ROANOKE 1
Lauren Harvey pitched a complete-game four-hitter in her second start of the 2012 Finals. Improving to 19-2 for the season, she fanned six batters and walked three while weathering a late rally by the hometown Maroons.
Lepp was 2-for-4 with a home run and Jaydee Baxter was 1-for-2 with a walk and two runs scored.
After the Maroons took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, the Wildcats knotted the game up when Katy Brosig (Jr., Forest Grove, Ore.) singled, was sacrificed to second by Jordan Mixsell and moved to third on a single from Ashley Garcia (Jr., Beaverton, Ore.). A perfectly executed sacrifice bunt by Haylie Watson (Jr., Puyallup, Wash.) provided the opening for Brosig to score.
The Wildcats loaded the bases with one out on Maroons freshman ace Kelly Higbie in the third, and Brosig came through once more with a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Baxter for a 2-1 Wildcats advantage.
Capitalizing on three more Roanoke errors in the fourth, Linfield plated three runs to bust the game open. Grace Middelstadt (Soph., Battle Ground, Wash.) reach base safely on an error, then stole second. A single to left field by Baxter and an accompanying fielding error by Higbie allowed both Baxter and Middelstadt to score unearned runs. Lepp singled to chase Higbie from the circle with the Wildcats leading 4-1.
The series of Roanoke miscues didn't end there. Reliever Stephanie Clark hit Staci Doucette with a pitch. A double steal put runners at second and third before Karleigh Prestianni (Sr., Grants Pass, Ore.) sent a bounding grounder to the infield, causing shortstop Caitlin Manuel to mishandle the ball and allow Lepp to score yet another run.
On her next at-bat in the sixth, Lepp made it 6-1 with a solo homer to left field, her second of the day and sixth in four NCAA Finals games for the Wildcats. In the bottom of the inning, the Maroons tapped back-to-back singles on Harvey but the senior righthander struck out Katherine Koury swinging to end the inning.
LINFIELD 4, TUFTS 1
Linfield managed just four hits on first team NFCA All-America pitcher Allison Fournier, but three of them went for solo home runs, thanks to the Wildcats’ heavy-hitting trio of Prestianni, Lepp and Doucette.
Fournier, the Jumbos’ freshman phenom, entered the game with a shiny 23-2 record, 0.41 ERA and a staggering 299 strikeouts. The righthander struck out eight Wildcats but walked five and gave up three home runs to the Wildcats after yielding just one homer all season.
Linfield unleashed its own All-America pitcher, sophomore Karina Paavola (Jr., Kelso, Wash.), who scattered seven hits and didn’t surrender a single walk, while holding the Jumbos without a run until the next-to-last out. As if for the sake of dramatics, Paavola struck out Mira Lieman-Sifry swinging to end the game.
Prestianni broke the ice with a solo home run over the left field wall in the second inning. Lepp made it 2-0 two innings later with her 16th home run of the season and fifth of the postseason.
In the Linfield fifth, the Wildcats manufactured a run. Brosig drew a walk off Fournier but pinch runner Kate Hasty was gunned down attempting to steal second base. Mixsell and Watson drew two more free passes and leadoff hitter Middlestadt tapped a single to left field that scored Mixsell.
Doucette punched her 20th home run of the season in the sixth, a soaring ball that just did remain fair inside the left-field pole.
The Jumbos’ best inning was the seventh. Parr singled up the middle, and a wild pitch allowed pinch runner Keenan to advance to second. Second baseman Garcia mishandled a lofting ball though the infield, and Keenan scored unearned to make it 4-1. With the tying run at the plate in the form of Lieman-Sifry, Paavola made sure the Wildcats would play on with her 172nd strikeout of the season.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Saturday night’s partisan Roanoke crowd was estimated at just over 800, the largest to ever witness a Linfield softball game. . . with their 44th and 45th wins of the season Sunday, the Wildcats equaled the win total of the 2007 national championship team and stand second only to last season’s club-record 51 victories. . . Wildcats skipper Jackson Vaughan coached his 500th career game Saturday against Pacific Lutheran. . . .with 10 strikeouts on Sunday, Linfield set a single-season strikeouts record, now 317 and counting. . . Harvey picked up her 53rd career pitching win, moving No. 2 on the all-time list past graduated All-American Claire Velaski. . . Doucette and Lepp will start their 200th consecutive games on Monday, a record that is unlikely to ever be broken. . . after a long day of softball, the Roanoke game finally ended at 10:19 p.m. . . periodic thunderstorms are expected to move across the Roanoke Valley Monday and Tuesday, causing tournament officials to move up Monday’s game times one hour.
IN OTHER TOURNAMENT GAMES: Roanoke ended Luther’s season with a 2-0 shutout. . . Pacific Lutheran advanced to the championship game with a 2-1 win over Montclair State in 12 innings.
Homers in each game
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