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Lutes Settle for Softball Split With Whitworth

Glenelle Nitta

PARKLAND - After being shut out for 16 consecutive innings through the first three games of a four-game Northwest Conference softball series with Pacific Lutheran, Whitworth put some crooked numbers on the board Sunday and as a result split a doubleheader with the Lutes at the PLU field. 

The Lutes hammered Whitworth 12-0 and 14-0 on Saturday in a pair of games shortened by the eight-run rule. Today's contests were very different, however, as PLU took a 5-1 victory in the opener before Whitworth withstood a furious Lutes rally in the bottom of the seventh to win the second game, 6-5.

Pacific Lutheran now 9-5 overall and 7-1 in the conference, while Whitworth sees its record go to 3-11 overall and 1-7 in the NWC.

First Game - PLU 5, Whitworth 1

Glenelle Nitta hit her second home run in as many days to lead an 11-hit PLU offense that supported Stacey's Hagensen's complete-game pitching performance.

After struggling in two short appearances on Saturday, Whitworth starting pitcher Riley Fritz kept the Lutes scoreless through the first three innings today. Pacific Lutheran almost got on the board in the second when it collected three hits, but the Whitworth defense threw out runners at third and at home to keep the game scoreless.

The hosts finally broke through in the fourth inning, scoring all five of their runs on five hits. Amanda Hall drew a one-out walk and Nitta followed with a two-run homer of the fence in left field. With two out, Montessa Califano legged out a trip to the gap in left-centerfield, and she scored on Melissa Harrelson's single to center. Amanda Goings followed with a base hit, and those two came in on Ami Gran's double to the base of the fence in left-center.

Whitworth finally scored in the top of the seven. Jamie Brunner and Heather Hesselgesser had back-to-back singles to open the inning, and Caylan Haehl beat out a bunt for a base hit to load the sacks. Brunner scored on Peyton McMahon's sacrifice fly to center, but a ground out and line out ended the game.

PLU continued to get excellent production from the bottom part of the lineup as Nitta collected three hits in the No. 6 spot, while Califano at No. 8 and Harrelson at No. 9 both had a pair of hits. Gran and Nitta both drove in two runs for PLU.

Brunner and Haehl both had two hits to lead Whitworth's six-hit offense against Hagensen, who improved to 5-3 this season.

Second Game - Whitworth 6, PLU 5

All credit goes to Whitworth pitcher Fritz, who threw six innings in the opener and then went the seven-inning distance in the second game. In improving her season record to 2-7, Fritz allowed five runs, all earned, on nine hits while striking out three and walking two.

The Pirates offense, dormant for most of the series, scored six times on eight hits. Heather Hesselgesser was the hitting hero, going 2-for-4 with a two-run homer in the fourth inning and a run-scoring double in the sixth.

After Hesselgesser gave the visitors a 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth, PLU's Gran tied it in the bottom of the inning with a two-run homer to center following Lindsey Matsunaga's double.

Whitworth added single tallies in both the fifth and sixth innings before making the score 6-2 with two more in the top of the seventh. Sami Parr hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth and Hesselgesser had her third RBI of the game in the sixth, hitting a double to score Brunner, who reached base a one-out single. The Pirates scored what proved to be the deciding two runs in the seventh on a single by Parr, a stolen base, a run-scoring base hit by Sacha Clow, and a PLU error that allowed Clow to score.

Clow, as it turned out, made the defensive play of the game in the bottom of the seventh.

Trailing 6-2 with one out, the Lutes started a rally when Gran walked, Goings beat out a bunt for a single, and Califano reached on a Whitworth error. Hagensen, who had scuffled at the plate for most of the series, singled sharply through the middle scoring Gran, but Clow's one-hop throw to catcher Jessica Ross got Goings at the plate. Hatlen followed with a single into left field, bringing in two runs and making the score 6-5.

Hall walked to send speedy pinch runner Spencer Sherwin to second base, but the game ended when Nitta lined out to Whitworth right fielder Makenzie Hope.

The Lutes out-hit Whitworth, 9-8, led by Goings, Hatlen and Gran with two hits apiece. Both Hatlen and Gran collected a pair of runs batted in.

Hesselgesser and Haehl both had a pair of hits to lead the Pirates.

PLU now takes to the road and won't be back for the next four weeks. In the meantime, the Lutes will play four conference doubleheaders and five non-conference twinbills in Texas before returning home on March 31 to face NWC foe Willamette.

- PLU -