PARKLAND - Linfield took a firm hold on the Northwest Conference softball lead Sunday by sweeping a doubleheader from Pacific Lutheran, 7-6 and 10-2 in five innings, at the PLU softball field.
The visiting Wildcats, the defending conference and national champions and the No. 1-ranked team in the country, are now 26-2 overall and 16-2 in the conference. PLU, which picked up a rare sweep of Linfield in McMinnville, Ore., back on March 11, is 24-10 overall and 14-4 in the NWC. The Lutes are tied for seventh in this week's Division III national poll.
First Game - Linfield 7, PLU 6
Jordan Mixsell hit Linfield's third homer of the game, this one a two-run blast over the left field fence in the seventh inning, to turn a tie game into a Wildcats victory.
Ashley Garcia started the rally with a base hit to left field, and she moved up a base on a sacrifice bunt. Katy Brosig grounded out to shortstop for the second out, but Mixsell connected off of Stacey Hagensen for the deciding runs.
The Lutes got a run back in the bottom of the inning when Amanda Goings led off with a single and eventually scored on an errant throw on a pickoff attempt, but the game ended with a runner on first when Karina Paavola fanned Amanda Hall.
Linfield combined three hits and a pair of PLU errors into three runs in the first inning, but the Lutes tied the game with three of their own in the bottom of the second. Hatlen led off with a double and pinch runner Tori Hamura eventually scored on Katie Lowery's single. Haley Harshaw followed with a single that scored pinch runner Katie Bologna, and Goings brought in the tying run with a fielder's choice bunt.
The visitors regained the lead in the top of the fourth on a homer by Brosig, but the Lutes went on top 5-4 on Hatlen's two-run homer over the fence in center.
Stacy Doucette tied the game for Linfield in the sixth with a long homer over the fence in left-centerfield, setting up Mixsell's heroics in the seventh inning.
Linfield collected 10 hits, including two each by Brosig and Mixsell, and also benefitted from four PLU errors. The Lutes had eight hits, with Califano and Hatlen getting two apiece.
Hagensen took the loss for PLU, dropping her season record to 13-5. In five innings she allowed six runs, though only three were earned, in seven hits. Leah Butters pitched the other two innings, giving up a run on three hits.
Paavola relieved Linfield starter Lauren Harvey and got the win to improve to 13-1. Harvey was pulled after allowing three runs in the first 1 1/3 innings, and Paavola finished up. In 5 2/3 innings she allowed three runs, two earned, on seven hits.
Second Game - Linfield 10, PLU 2 (5 innings)
Shelby VandeBergh got the start for the Wildcats and limited the Lutes to two runs on five hits in a complete-game performance. She improved her season record to 2-0 with the victory.
For the second straight game, Linfield played long ball with three home runs.
None of those homers came in Linfield's four-run first inning. In fact, the 'Cats managed just one hit in the frame, that being a bunt single by Karleigh Prestianni. They made the most of two walks, a hit batter, a passed ball, a wild pitch, and a big error that led to three runs.
The Lutes scored two in the bottom of the inning on Hagensen's RBI double and Hatlen's sacrifice fly, but after that VandeBergh silenced the hosts.
Linfield went on to score at least one run in every inning. Jaydee Baxter hit a homer in the second, Doucette clubbed one of the longest homers ever hit at the PLU field in the fourth, and Haylie Watson added a solo shot leading off the fifth.
In all the 'Cats finished with nine hits, led by Prestianni, Brosig and Mixsell with two apiece.
Hatlen took the pitching loss for PLU and is now 8-2 this season. She was one of five PLU players to collect a hit in the game.
The games ended a string of six doubleheaders over nine games for the Lutes, who hit the road next weekend for a pair of NWC twinbills in Oregon. They play at Pacific on Friday and at Lewis & Clark on Saturday.
- PLU -