Lutes Softball Opens 2011 Season at Oregon Tourney
THIS WEEKEND: Pacific Lutheran hopes to build on last year's winning record when it opens the 2011 softball season Saturday and Sunday at the Northwest Cup hosted by Concordia University at Hood View Park in Happy Valley, Ore. The schedule on Saturday has PLU vs. Northwest Crhistian, 1 p.m., and PLU vs. British Columbia, 3 p.m. On Sunday, the Lutes play Oregon Tech at 9 a.m. and College of Idaho at 11 a.m.
ABOUT THE TOURNAMENT: The 25-game Northwest Cup features five teams from the Cascade Collegiate Conference (NAIA) and six teams from the Northwest Conference (PLU, Whitworth, Pacific, Puget Sound, Willamette, and Lewis & Clark). In fact, three of PLU's four opponents - excluding British Columbia - are CCC members. All of PLU's weekend opponents already have a handful of games under the belts. Northwest Christian is already 2-4 overall this season, while Oregon Tech is 1-2 and College of Idaho is 3-3. British Columbia has already played eight games this year and is 4-4 overall. Third-year head coach Erin Van Nostrand will use the tournament as an opportunity for her new players to show what they can do in a competitive situation. "We are going to start four different lineups, with all four of our pitchers getting a start," said head coach Erin Van Nostrand. She added that the tournament will provide a large group of newcomers with an opportunity to show what they can do at the NCAA Division III level.
SEASON OUTLOOK: The 2011 season brings many new faces with new expectations to the program. Coach Erin Van Nostrand has compiled a 41-37 record in her two years and has managed her team into two fourth-place NWC finishes during her time. However, the team has showed improvement under Van Nostrand, winning only 18 games in 2009 but coming back with a 23-win season in 2010. PLU looks to build on this improvement for the 2011 season, but the task will be more than elementary. The Lutes will be coming into the year with a roster that looks quite different from a season ago with only eight players returning from the 2010 team. A strong core of returning players will be led by junior Stacey Hagensen. She hit .424 and belted eight home runs while driving in 43 runs, primarily as a rightfielder. From the pitching circle, Hagensen started 13 games for the Lutes and threw eight complete games. Her accomplishments from the 2010 season led to a first team all-conference selection and NFCA West Region second team honors as a utility player. Also returning for the Lutes will be sophomore Kaaren Hatlen, who last year batted .333 and drove in 18 runs. Mostly used as the designated player, Hatlen earned second team all-conference honors in 2010. Sophomore utility player Monti Califano will be another player to watch in 2011 after she hit .368 to earn all-conference honorable mention recognition. Other top returnees include Lauren Watson (.320, 21 RBI) at first base, Glenelle Nitta (.273, 2 HRs) at second, Haley Harshaw (.387, 2 HRs) at shortstop, and Kaely Cuthill (.333) as a utility player. Pitchers Ally VanSchoorl (5-0, 1.55 ERA) and Jackie Martinez (3-2) also return. The 2011 season will be filled with fresh faces. The Lutes have brought in 11 new players to the program, including eight frosh and three junior transfers. The incoming class is highlighted by outfielder Amanda Goings, a junior transfer who played two years at Division II Montana State-Billings.
CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT: The Lutes ended the 2010 season in fourth place in the tough Northwest Conference, which was won for the seventh consecutive time by national powerhouse Linfield College. The NWC has introduced a new postseason format beginning in the 2011 season, however, with the top four teams in the final standings advancing to a tournament for the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA championships. With a mix of core returners and first year players looking to contribute immediately, the Lutes will be looking to finish in the top four and make a run at a NWC title.
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