LUTES HEADED BACK TO OREGON: After sweeping Willamette University and defending national champion Linfield College in back-to-back days, the Pacific Lutheran University softball team returns to Oregon this weekend for a four-game series with George Fox University. Last Saturday, the Lutes recorded a pair of victories by scores of 4-3 and 7-3 over Willamette. The next day, Pacific Lutheran made a statement not just to the Northwest Conference but to the nation with two resounding victories over No. 1 ranked Linfield. The four wins on the weekend improved Pacific Lutheran's record on the year to 13-5 and with an 11-1 mark in NWC action, PLU stands alone atop the conference standings. This weekend, Pacific Lutheran travels back to Oregon for the second consecutive weekend for a four-game set against George Fox. Saturday and Sunday will feature a doubleheader between the two programs with first pitch set for noon on both days.
MATSUNAGA TAMES THE CATS: In the Lutes two wins over Linfield on Sunday, Pacific Lutheran shortstop Lindsey Matsunaga played a vital role in both games. In the opening game of the doubleheader, Matsunaga drove in four runs including a three-run homerun in the sixth-inning that put the game out of reach. In game two, Matsunaga delivered the final knockout blow in a six-run seventh inning after she drove in Amanda Hall with a one-out double. The Hawaiian native finished the day with three hits and with five RBI.
POTENT OFFENSE: Through 18 games, no team in the NWC has scored more runs than the Lutes. This season, the Pacific Lutheran offense has scored a conference-best 134 runs. PLU also leads the NWC in four other statistics including hits (180), doubles (34), RBI (120), and walks (58).
WHAT'S BRUIN' WITH GEORGE FOX: With a 6-3 record in NWC action this season, the George Fox University Bruins sit in third-place in the conference standings. The Bruins are getting hot at the right time as the team is on a six-game winning streak. GFU has used its speed on the base paths to find success as the team leads the NWC in both stolen bases (45) and triples (8). Sophomore Felicia Chavez leads the Bruin offense in 2012. The outfielder is batting .483 on the season and leads all NWC batters with 28 hits. Her 18 runs batted in ranks fifth in the NWC and is best among all GFU hitters.
PLU 6, Linfield 2: The second game rally seemed unlikely as Linfield's Karina Paavola cruised into the top of the seventh and final inning with a shutout. Katie Lowery and Haley Harshaw started the rally with back-to-back base hits. After an out, Montessa Califano tied the game with a triple, her third of the season, over the left fielder's head. Stacey Hagensen hit an opposite field triple to drive in Califano with the go-ahead run, and Kaaren Hatlen followed with a home run, her second of the day and fifth of the season, to make it 5-2 PLU. The Lutes weren't done, however, as Amanda Hall hit a double and came home on another double by Lindsey Matsunaga. When it was all said and done, the Lutes had scored their six runs on seven hits. Linfield's only error of the inning did not affect the scoring. Hatlen retired Linfield in order in the bottom of the seventh, including a strikeout of Grace Middelstadt for the third out, to finish her complete-game effort. She limited the high-powered Linfield offense to two earned runs on five hits while fanning two and walking two. With the win, she improved to 5-0 this season.
PLU 9, Linfield 5: In the opener, the Lutes scored six runs in the first three innings to build a 6-3 lead, and they iced the game with three more runs in the top of the sixth inning. PLU scored a pair of two-out runs in the first inning when Hagensen hit a double and Hatlen followed with a homer over the fence in right field. Pacific Lutheran made it 6-3 with another run in the third when Hatlen led off with a double and pinch runner Spencer Sherwin eventually scored on Matsunaga's ground out. The Wildcats chipped away at their deficit, scoring solo runs in the fourth and fifth innings to make it 6-5 in favor of PLU entering the top of the sixth. That's when the Lutes put the game away, and it came with a big swing from Matsunaga. With Hagensen and Hatlen on base following singles, Matsunaga drilled her fifth homer of the season to put the Lutes ahead 9-5, and that is how the game ended.
PLU 7, Willamette 3: Offense was not a problem for the Lutes in this game as Amanda Goings and Amanda Hall both collected three hits to lead PLU's 15-hit attack. Pacific Lutheran finally broke through in the middle innings, scoring three times in both the fourth and fifth innings, and then adding its final tally in the seventh. Leah Butters, working five innings in relief, picked up the win in the pitching circle. She allowed two earned runs on three hits while fanning four and walking two.
PLU 4, Willamette 3: PLU's winning run in the first game was unearned as Willamette committed a costly two-out error. With two outs, Glenelle Nitta walked and Montessa Califano followed with a single to center. Amanda Goings hit the ball to center and it was ruled an error, allowing Nitta to cross the plate with the winning run. Stacey Hagensen made the run stand up, stranding a Willamette runner on third base in the sixth inning and on second base in the seventh inning. The senior right-hander went the distance, allowing three earned runs on six hits while striking out two and walking one.