COLUMBUS, Ga. – The Linfield Wildcats advanced to the semifinals of the Gold Bracket of the prestigious National Fastpitch Coaches Association Leadoff Classic, blanking both Fontbonne (Mo.) and St. Thomas (Minn.) by identical 8-0 scores.
Linfield, ranked ninth in the most recent NFCA Top 25 poll, improved to 3-1 at the tournament and 9-3 for the season. The ‘Cats face Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Sunday at 7 a.m. Pacific time in the Gold Bracket semifinals, with the winner advancing to play either Illinois Wesleyan or Trine (Ind.) for the championship at 9 o'clock.
On Saturday, Wildcats sophomore Erin Carson (Jr., Camas, Wash.) went a combined 5 for 7 with a triple and six RBI to power Linfield at the plate. Pitchers Karina Paavola (Sr., Kelso, Wash.) and Shelby VandeBergh (Sr., Beaverton, Ore.) each recorded shutout victories.
Against Fontbonne, the Wildcats jumped to a fast 7-0 advantage after the second inning, then padded their lead with a single run in the third inning to coast to victory in a game abbreviated to five innings by the eight-run rule.
Carson tripled to drive in three runs, one of the sophomore outfielder’s two hits in the game. Grace Middelstadt (Jr., Battle Ground, Wash.) and Megan Wallo also had a couple of hits as the Wildcats rolled up nine hits to the Griffins’ three.
Middelstadt and Wallo punished Fontbonne on the basepaths, stealing two bases each.
Paavola was in command in the pitching circle throughout, striking out four batters while collecting her five of the season against no losses. Paavola spun first-pitch strikes on 12 of the 18 batters she faced.
Carson was again the offensive instigator against perennial Division III powerhouse St. Thomas in a game that was shortened to six innings. She went 3 for 4 with three RBI. Ashley Garcia (Sr., Beaveton, Ore.) also drove in three runs. All but one of the Wildcats’ nine starting batters enjoyed hits in the game.
VandeBergh pitched a two-hit shutout, striking out two batters and walking a pair. The ‘Cats played flawless defense behind her, not allowing the Tommies to advance a runner past first base.
Leading 3-0, Linfield plated three runs in the fifth inning, highlighted by doubles from Garcia and Katy Brosig (Sr., Forest Grove, Ore.).
‘CAT SCRATCH: In four games at the Leadoff Classic, the Wildcats have outscored their opponents 25-3. . . three of Linfield’s four contests in the tournament have been halted early by the eight-run rule. . . Carson is hitting .583 for the tournament with an on-base percentage of .615, both team highs among Linfield starters.
5 hits, 6 runs batted in
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