Lutes Will Know Where They Stand This Weekend
THIS WEEKEND: Pacific Lutheran (10-3 overall, 8-0 Northwest Conference) plays a doubleheader at Linfield (14-4, 7-1), Saturday, noon; PLU plays at doubleheadeer at Pacific (10-10, 5-3), Sunday, noon.
TEST TIME: The Pacific Lutheran softball team currently occupies the top spot in the Northwest Conference standings with an 8-0 record, but those eight games came against the three bottom dwellers in the standings. PLU will get a much better idea of where it stands this weekend in Oregon when it plays doubleheaders at Linfield and Pacific. PLU is the only unbeaten team in Northwest Conference play. Willamette and Linfield are tied at 7-1 and Pacific is 5-3.
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ABOUT LINFIELD: Linfield is the preeminent softball power in the Northwest Conference with six consecutive conference titles to its credit. Additionally, the Wildcats were picked by the NWC coaches to win their seventh straight title this year. Linfield picked up seven of the eight first-place votes in the preseason poll. Shortstop Staci Doucette was the NWC Player of the Year as a freshman and returns to lead the Wildcats. Four other All-NWC first team position players, all of whom were freshmen or sophomores last spring, return for six-time NWC Coach of the Year Jackson Vaughan. This season, Doucette is hitting .436 with seven home runs and 23 runs batted in. She doesn't lead the team in hitting, however, as frosh Karleigh Prestianni is hitting at a .471 clip with five homers and 16 RBI. Prestianni is this week's Northwest Conference Player of the Week. Other top hitters include junior Emilyi Keagbine at .364 with five homers and 18 RBI, sophomore Emilee Lepp at .328 with four homers and sophomore Sami Keim at .400 with two homers. The team batting average is a stout .333 and the Wildcats already have 24 home runs in 18 games. The pitching is also impressive as junior Claire Velaski touts 48 strikeouts in 45 innings, in addition to a 5-1 record and a 1.09 earned run average. Sophomore Lauren Harvey is 6-2 with a 1.52 earned run average for the 'Cats. You might notice that there is not a single senior among the players listed in this note.
ABOUT PACIFIC: Chelsey Chamberlain is a dual threat for the Boxers. While she is hitting just .226, she has clubbed seven home runs and collected 25 RBI. In the circle, she has compiled a 4-4 won-loss record, a 2.72 earned run average and 44 strikeouts in 54 innings. The team's other top pitcher is perennial all-conference selection Miranda McNealey, who this year is 6-4 with a 3.54 earned run average and 51 strikeouts in 57 1/3 innings of work. The offense has plenty of firepower, including Ashley Billingsley (.362 average), Kelly Nishitomi (.404), Teri Shigeno (.393) and Carrie Maerz (.371). Stephanie Vanoudenhaegen, who just might set a Northwest Conference record for number of keystrokes used to type her name, has a .375 average, has swiped 10 bases and scored 15 runs. Another long-ball threat for the Boxers is Jessie Garcia, who has belted five homers.
23 RUNS, 31 HITS IN GEORGE FOX SWEEP: Pacific Lutheran broke out the bats in a big way last Saturday, collecting 23 runs on 31 hits in a NWC doubleheader sweep of the host George Fox Bruins. The Lutes broke away from a 1-1 tie, scoring 10 runs over the final three innings in taking the opener, 11-1, and they bashed 17 hits and scored seven runs in the final two innings of a 12-3 win in the second contest. Ramona Lorton earned the pitching win in the opener, allowing one earned run on four hits while striking out six and walking none. Stacey Hagensen collected three hits and both Caitlin Brown and Monti Califano had two to lead the PLU offense. Hagensen was the winning pitcher in the nightcap and for the fourth straight game had three hits. The sophomore allowed two runs on eight hits in five innings, and Jackie Martinez finished the job, giving up a run on two hits while fanning four in the last two innings. Joining Hagensen with three hits were Brown and Beth Haahr, while Amber Roberts and Kaaren Hatlen both had a pair of safeties.
AND MORE OFFENSE ON SUNDAY: One day after breaking out the bats against George Fox, the Lutes kept up their offensive production in last Sunday's twinbill sweep of winless Lewis & Clark. The Lutes won the opener, 10-0 in six innings, and took the second game 12-5. Ramona Lorton improved her pitching record to 4-0 and also collected two hits and three runs batted in to lead the Lutes in the first game. Lorton allowed just one hit and no runs in five innings. Kaaren Hatlen pitched the final inning, allowing just one hit and striking out two. Aubree Pocklington had three hits, including two doubles, and scored two runs to lead the PLU offense. Lauren Watson and Lorton both had a double among their two hits and also drove in three runs, while Shelby Johnston had a single and triple for the Lutes. PLU finished the game with 13 hits. In the second game, Amber Roberts had a homer among her four hits, scored three runs and drove in three. Stacey Hagensen had two hits, including her fourth homer of the season, scored two runs and drove in four. Caitlin Brown and Kaely Cuthill both had a pair of PLU's 15 hits. Jackie Martinez picked up the win in relief. She allowed four runs, all earned, on six hits in 3 2/3 innings. Ally Van Schoorl started the game and gave up one run on three hits in 3 1/3 innings.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Last week, Pacific Lutheran players swept the weekly Northwest Conference softball honors. Stacey Hagensen earned Player of the Week honors after hitting .529 with a .882 slugging percentage in four games. Hagensen had back-to-back three-hit games against George Fox, giving her a streak of four such performances going back to the previous weekend's games against Whitworth. Hagensen also clubbed a pair of home runs. Ramona Lorton picked up Pitcher of the Week recognition after winning both of her starts. She gave up just one earned run on five hits in 12.0 innings. Lorton, who had a 0.58 earned run average for the week, struck out eight and walked just one batter.
LUTE NOTES: Stacey Hagensen is off to a great start this year and leads the Lutes with a .489 batting average, four home runs and 19 runs batted in. Hagensen is hitting .516 in eight Northwest Conference games. Among the regulars, Amber Roberts is next in PLU hitting with a .392 average. Additionally, she is 12-for-15 in steals and has scored 15 runs and driven in 11 more. After a slow start, 2009 All-NWC first team pick Caitlin Brown has raised her average to .350. A pair of frosh, Glenelle Nitta (.333) and Lauren Watson (.324) are also among the PLU hitting leaders. Ramona Lorton has been PLU's best pitcher in the early going with a 4-0 record and a 1.45 earned run average. Lorton is not a strikeout pitcher with "only" 16 whiffs in 29 innings, but opponents are hitting just .155 against her. The Lutes are improving defensively with a .947 fielding percentage and they have outscored their opponents, 90-39, this far this season. As a team, PLU is hitting .335 while opponents are at .226. The Lutes have been solid in the stolen base category with 24 steals in 29 attempts.
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