Game 2 Box Score
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Experience, a little luck and some timely hitting lifted the Linfield Wildcats past Cal Lutheran twice at Hutton Field on Thursday.
The No. 8 Wildcats punished the underdog Regals 12-2 in 6 innings in the first game of the nonconference doubleheader, then rallied from a three-run deficit to pull out a white knuckle 5-4 Game 2 victory in eight innings.
Haylie Watson (Jr., Puyallup, Wash.) homered in the first game and provided a game-winning sacrifice in the nightcap, and Karina Paavola (Jr., Kelso, Wash.) recorded favorable pitching decisions in both contests for Linfield (17-4), which extended its current win streak to eight games.
A three-run home run by Watson and a two-run single from Erin Carson (Soph., Camas, Wash.) in the top of the first inning put the Regals on their heels from the very beginning.
McKenna Spieth (Soph., Vancouver, Wash.) doubled to lead off the second inning and scooted to third base on a single by Grace Middelstadt (Soph., Battle Ground, Wash.). Linfield then executed a double steal, scoring Spieth. Moments later Karleigh Prestianni (Sr., Grants Pass, Ore.) singled, driving home Middelstadt and the Wildcats led 5-0.
Paavola, the Wildcats’ Game 1 starter, limited CLU to one hit while striking out three batters.
CLU scored a couple of runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, tapping three hits on reliever Maddy Dunn (Fr., Lake Oswego, Ore.). Later, in the CLU sixth, the Regals produced a pair of hits and a walk to load the bases with two outs, but Katelyn Downing sent an arching popup into the glove of shortstop Katy Brosig (Jr., Forest Grove, Ore.).
Watson went 2 for 3 and scored twice, including her fourth homer of the season. Prestianni and Wallo also tapped a pair of hits. Five of Linfield’s 13 hits went for extra bases.
Downing, the Regals’ starting pitcher, took the loss to fall to 2-8. Downing did not record a single strikeout, surrendering nine hits and two walks in three innings of action.
Cal Lutheran was saddled with four defensive errors while Linfield played error-free defense behind Paavola and Dunn.
Watson’s sacrifice in extra innings brought the Wildcats back from a precarious three-run deficit, averting a major upset.
Garcia’s RBI single in the first inning plated Prestianni, putting the 'Cats in front 1-0. CLU answered with an unearned run in the second. The Regals had the bases loaded after Dunn issued a pair of walks and a gave up a double to Brittany Labbe. And when a passed ball got past Spieth, the catcher, Stephanie Banyl scored the tying run.
The Regals cashed in three hits and an error in the fourth inning, eventually taking a three-run advantage into the seventh.
Like good teams are supposed to do, Linfield found a way to pull the game from the fire. With runners and first and third and two outs, Prestianni drilled a two-strike double down the right-field line, sending both bases runners home. Lisa Yamamoto (Soph., Carson City, Nev.) then stepped into the batter’s box and delivered a triple just inside the right-field line. Her clutch, two-strike blast squared the game at 4.
Once in extra innings, the game followed international tie-breaking rules with base runners placed at second base to start each half inning. The ‘Cats scored the eventual game-winner in the eighth on Watson’s sacrifice to center field.
Linfield starter Shelby VandeBergh (Jr., Beaverton, Ore.) was tagged for five hits, including three doubles, and three walks before being replaced with two outs in the fourth. Montana McNealy (Soph., Aloha, Ore.) came on in relief, fanning four batters and allowing just a single hit.
Paavola, brought in as a reliever for the final two innings, coaxed Downing to fly out in the eighth before catching the next two batters napping on third-strike pitches to end the game. The junior righthander improved to 10-1 for the season.
Linfield outhit CLU 9-6. Wallo and Yamamoto each picked up two hits.
‘CAT SCRATCH: The Wildcats moved up one spot to No. 8 in the most recent NFCA Top 25 poll. . . with her 35th and 36th career wins Thursday, Paavola moved past graduated all-star Liz Coburn (2002-04) to No. 9 on Linfield’s career wins list. . . by earning the sweep, Linfield improved to 10-2 all-time against Cal Lutheran. . . Linfield reserve Lisa Bennett (Soph., Bellevue, Wash.) smacked two doubles in the twinbill. . . Linfield pitchers have a combined 1.34 earned run average through 21 games. . . the school record for lowest ERA is 1.23 set by the 2004 team that featured the 1-2 punch of Coburn and Michelle Morris. . . the Wildcats have not allowed a home run this season.
AHEAD: Linfield treks south to Orange County to face regional rival Chapman in a doubleheader Friday starting at 2 p.m. The Panthers, ranked 21st in Division III, enter the fray having won eight of their last 10 matchups.
Climbs to No. 9 on career wins ladder
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