LUTES HEAD SOUTH: The Pacific Lutheran University softball team hits the road for the first time in Northwest Conference play as the Lutes travel to Oregon to take on the Willamette University Bearcats and defending national champion Linfield College. Pacific Lutheran enters the weekend with a 9-5 overall record and a 7-1 mark in NWC play. The Lutes sit in second place in the conference standing one-game behind Linfield for first place. Saturday, the Lutes begin their weekend with a double header against Willamette in Salem, Ore. The next day, the Lutes travel to McMinnville, Ore. to take on Linfield for two crucial games on the NWC schedule. First pitch is scheduled for noon on both days.
MATSUNAGA HEATING UP: After getting off to a slow start to her sophomore season, Lindsey Matsunaga found her stroke this weekend in the Lutes three wins over Whitworth. In 10 at-bats, the shortstop batted .500 and drove in seven RBI. This weekend's explosion at the plate brought Matsunaga's batting average up 56 points, from .238 to .294.
HAGENSEN CONTINUES DOMINANCE: After picking up two wins this weekend, Stacey Hagensen continued her dominance in the pitching circle. The senior worked 13 and 2/3 innings this weekend surrendering only two earned runs while striking out 13. With a 1.35 ERA and 36 strikeouts on the season, Hagensen leads the NWC in both categories.
SCOUTING THE BEARCATS: With a 6-2 mark in NWC action, the Willamette Bearcats sit in third-place in the conference standings, just one-game back of Pacific Lutheran. Theresa Martin has made a big impact on campus for the Bearcats in just her first season. The freshman is batting .483 (14-29) and has driven in a team-high 13 RBI. Senior Alex Watilo and freshman Hayley Lantz have teamed up this season to do all the pitching for the Bearcats. Watilo is 6-2 on the year, posting an ERA of 2.86.
A LOOK AT LINFIELD: At 10-0 on the season, the defending national champion Linfield Wildcats come into this weekend's action ranked No. 1 in the nation. With an 8-0 mark in NWC play, the Wildcats are the class of the conference again in 2012. Linfield, which is looking to win its ninth straight NWC title, has dominated opponents so far this year outscoring foes by a combined score of 100-12. 2011 NWC Player of the Year Emilee Lepp returns for her senior season and leads Linfield in her final season. The catcher is batting .421 this season and has driven in 16 RBI. Linfield's offensive assault on opponents has heavily relied on the long ball as the team has already hit 23 homeruns. Defensively, the Wildcats post the conference's best team-ERA at 1.50. Senior Lauren Harvey and sophomore Karina Paavola have both posted five wins this season.
Whitworth 6, PLU 5: 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. Trailing 6-2 with one out in the seventh inning, the Lutes started a rally when Ami Gran walked, Amanda Goings beat out a bunt for a single, and Montessa 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 Sacha Clow's one-hop throw to catcher Jessica Ross got Goings at the plate. Kaaren Hatlen followed with a single into left field, bringing in two runs and making the score 6-5.
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. 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. 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.
PLU 14, Whitworth 0: Karen Hatlen improved to 4-0, allowing only four hits and one walk while striking out seven in her five-inning complete game. She also played a big part of a 15-hit attack, finishing 3-for-4 with four runs batted in an two runs scored. Pacific Lutheran scored three runs on three hits and two Whitworth errors in the opening inning, with Hatlen, Hall and Matsunaga all collecting RBI singles in the frame. PLU added three more in the third and two in the fourth. In the third inning, Hagensen and Hall sandwiched run-scoring doubles around a RBI infield single by Hatlen. The fourth-inning runs came as a result of leadoff hits by Lowery and Shelby Hasse, who both scored on a throwing error.
PLU 12, Whitworth 0: Stacey Hagensen improved her season record to 4-3 by allowing only five hits while striking out eight and not walking a batter in going the five-inning distance. She got plenty of offensive support from her teammates as Katie Lowery, Glenelle Nitta and Lindsey Matsunaga all clubbed home runs. PLU scored five times with two outs in the first inning. Amanda Goings led off with a double and Haley Harshaw was hit by a pitch to lead off the frame, and both moved up on a double steal. With two outs, Amanda Hall drilled a double to drive in Goings and Harshaw, and Lowery followed with a majestic home run to straightaway left field. Nitta followed with a home run over the centerfield fence, and just like that the Lutes were on top 5-0. The Lutes put the game on ice with four runs in the bottom of the fourth, highlighted by Matsunaga's third homer of the campaign, a three-run shot to left field. Montessa Califano followed with a triple to centerfield, and she scored on a ground out by Amanda Goings.