NEWBERG, Ore. - A weekend-long offensive power outage finally proved too much for Pacific Lutheran to overcome on Sunday as the Lutes split a Northwest Conference softball doubleheader with host George Fox.
The Lutes rallied to win the opener, 3-2 in eight innings, before leaving six runners in scoring position in dropping a 3-1 decision in the second game. With the split, the No. 7-ranked Lutes, 16-6 overall, drop into a first-place tie with Linfield in the conference standings, both teams with 14-2 NWC records. George Fox is now 7-6 in the conference and 12-11 overall.
Pacific Lutheran won the opening game of the series rather handily, 7-2, but had to rally for three runs in the seventh inning of yesterday's second game to take a 3-2 win.
Today's first contest featured another late PLU rally that netted a tie in the seventh inning and the winning run in the eighth.
George Fox scored an unearned run in the second, PLU tied it with an unearned run in the third, and then the Bruins took a 2-1 lead in the fifth as a result of something rarely seen this spring - the sun. With a runner on first and two outs, what should have been a routine third-out fly ball turned into a run-scoring double when the sun popped out from behind a cloud, obscuring Amanda Goings' view of the ball.
The Lutes went into the top of the seventh with that one-run deficit, but got a clutch two-out hit from Katie Lowery to tie the game. Lindsey Matsunaga bounced a single up the middle to start the inning, and she moved up a base on a ground out. With two outs, Lowery ripped a double to the gap in right-centerfield to score Matsunaga.
PLU won the game with a run in the top of the eighth. Montessa Califano and Stacey Hagensen led off with consecutive singles, and after two outs, Matsunaga drew a walk. Haley Harshaw, a defensive replacement making her first plate appearance, fell behind in the count but coaxed a walk to drive in what proved to be the winning run.
Hagensen made the run stand up, recording two straight strikeouts to end the game with the potential tying run on second base. She went the eight-inning distance for the win, scattering five hits while walking none and striking out five.
The Lutes managed just six hits in the game, including two by Lowery, and in a theme that would come back to haunt them in the next game, they left five runners in scoring position.
The second game was a case of numerous missed opportunities for PLU, which collected 10 hits but stranded a total of nine runners in the contest.
The host Bruins scored two runs on three hits, including a clutch two-out, two-run double, to take a first inning lead against PLU starter Kaaren Hatlen. The junior left-hander ended up suffering her first defeat of the season after six victories in the circle.
Pacific Lutheran got a run back in the top of the fifth on an unusual inside-the-park home run by Spencer Sherwin. With two outs in the inning, the speedy sophomore outfielder circled the bases after the relay throw to the infield got stuck in the soft, gooey field. Consecutive singles by Califano and Harshaw gave the Lutes had an opportunity for more, but a ground out ended that threat.
George Fox increased its lead to 3-1, collecting three straight hits with two outs in the bottom of the fifth.
The Lutes had runners on second and third in the sixth inning following a double by Hatlen and a single by Goings, but a fly ball ended that threat.
In the top of the seventh, Califano hit a one-out single and Hagensen collected a two-out base hit, but Hatlen's drive to the gap was snagged by diving centerfielder Kris Trindle, ending the game.
Califano, Hagensen and Sherwin all had a pair of hits to lead PLU.
PLU heads to Texas for its next 10 games, playing doubleheaders against five different opponents over a six-day period from March 24-29.
- PLU -