Game 2 Box Score
McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Opening up a four-game advantage in the Northwest Conference with two weeks remaining on the schedule, the Linfield Wildcats took a major step toward securing the program’s 10th consecutive conference championship, beating closest challenger Pacific Lutheran twice on Saturday at sun-soaked Del Smith Stadium.
Playing in front of a charged grandstand, the Wildcats came from behind to beat the Lutes 8-6 in the opener, then took a five-run lead in the nightcap and held on for a 5-2 victory.
Linfield (22-5, 14-2 NWC), ranked ninth in NCAA Division III, was facing PLU for the first time since falling twice to the Lutes in last season’s NCAA Finals.
Unranked PLU, which unseated Linfield as national champion last spring, dropped to 17-11, 10-6 in the conference. The top four teams qualify for the NWC Playoff Tournament, April 20-21, on the field of the No. 1 seed.
Sluggers Karleigh Prestianni and Lisa Yamamoto (Jr., Carson City, Nev.) each went 5 for 7 in the twinbill as the Wildcats pounded 27 hits on three different pitchers.
After spotting PLU two runs in the first 10 minutes, Linfield put on an offensive clinic with a season-high 17 hits, including four by Yamamoto and three from Prestianni.
A two-run homer by PLU’s Amanda Hall put the ‘Cats in a hole in the top of the first inning. Linfield answered quickly with RBI singles by Ashley Garcia (Sr., Beaveton, Ore.) and Prestianni in the bottom of the frame.
Linfield took full command in the second inning, rolling up six hits and five runs in building a 7-2 advantage. The inning featured a RBI triple by McKenna Spieth (Jr., Vancouver, Wash.) and a solo home run by Yamamoto over the center-field fence, her sixth of the season.
In the third, PLU tacked on a pair of runs to trim the margin to 7-4 as Katie Lowery and Kelsey Robinson tapped run-scoring singles to keep the game within reach.
The teams traded runs in the fifth and sixth innings before the Lutes pulled nearly pulled the game out of the hat in the seventh. Lindsey Matsunaga’s ground out scored Kaaren Hatlen, pulling PLU within two, 8-6. With the Lutes down to their final out and runners at first and third base, Karina Paavola (Sr., Kelso, Wash.) entered to record the game-clinching strikeout on Glenelle Nitta.
Paavola (12-2) started and ended the game but enjoyed a two-inning breather from reliever Montana McNealy (Jr., Aloha, Ore.). The two Wildcat hurlers combined for eight strikeouts, allowing nine hits and six walks to the upset-minded Lutes.
Lutes starter Kelsey Robinson absorbed the loss to drop to 7-4, allowing 12 hits and a walk. Together, Robinson and reliever Leah Butters managed just one strikeout.
In addition to Yamamoto and Prestianni’s heroics, Garcia, Erin Carson (Jr., Camas, Wash.) and Spieth planted a pair of hits each to pace the Linfield offensive barrage.
Shelby VandeBergh (Sr., Beaverton, Ore.) pitched six shutout innings while Prestianni, Watson and Spieth banged two hits, part of a 10-hit outburst that cinched the doubleheader sweep.
The Lutes quickly loaded the bases in the top of the first on VandeBergh, but the junior righthander calmly got Lowery and Robinson both to pop out, squelching the scoring threat.
Garcia broke the ice in the bottom of the first, pounding a hard-hit ball to left field, scoring Yamamoto from third and the Wildcats led 1-0.
A leadoff single by Haylie Watson (Sr., Puyallup, Wash.) to start the Linfield fourth ignited a four-run burst. Spieth delivered a two-run double minutes later and Prestianni followed with an energizing two-run homer that pumped the Wildcats’ cushion to 5-0.
Refusing to go down easily, PLU parked runners at second and third in the fifth, but Montessa Califano grounded the ball into the glove of VandeBergh, who tossed to Watson for the third out.
Maddy Dunn (Soph., Lake Oswego, Ore.) relieved VandeBergh in the seventh and the Lutes made things interesting by placing runners at the corners with two outs. A pair of PLU hits, coupled with two Linfield errors, put the potential tying run at the plate in the form of Hatlen. But Dunn coaxed Hatlen to pop up, capping the doubleheader sweep.
VandeBergh (10-2) scattered four hits and five walks over six innings to earn the win. Hatlen (6-5) was saddled with the loss.
Califano had three hits and Haley Harshaw added two hits for the Lutes.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Three Wildcat seniors, Prestianni, Megan Wallo and Rachelle Ridout were honored prior to Saturday’s first pitch. . . the Class of 2013 has combined to win 88 percent of its games (161-22 overall) and 93 percent of its conference matchups (93-7).
AHEAD: Linfield plays six games on the road in the span of five days in the coming week. Wednesday, the Wildcats visit Willamette for a 2 p.m. doubleheader. Friday, Linfield heads to Newberg to battle George Fox for a four-game series Saturday and Sunday starting at noon both days.
2-run homer slams door on PLU
Director of Sports Information
McMinnville, OR 97128