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PLU Begins Busy Week Against Willamette

Lindsey Matsunaga
Lindsey Matsunaga

THIS WEEK: The Pacific Lutheran University softball team hosts the Willamette University Bearcats in a double header Tuesday afternoon in Parkland. Due to inclement weather, the Lutes and Bearcats were unable to play a double header two weekends ago. Tuesday's mid-week games will serve as a makeup date for the two programs. Pacific Lutheran comes into the week with a 28-10 record. With an 18-4 mark in Northwest Conference action, the Lutes sit in second-place in the NWC standings heading into the final week of conference play. Last weekend, PLU swept four games in Oregon to keep their hopes of an NWC regular-season title alive. Every game down the stretch will prove vital if the Lutes hope to secure the No. 1 spot in the conference's postseason tournament. Tuesday's double header against Willamette is set to begin at 2 p.m.

OREGON ONSLAUGHT: The Lutes bounced back in fine fashion from two tough losses at home to No. 1 ranked Linfield College two weekends ago. This past weekend, in their first games since the losses, the Lutes collected four wins outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 37-2.

HATLEN HEATING UP: Junior Kaaren Hatlen has been tearing the cover off the ball since the team returned from Texas. In her last six games, Hatlen is batting .588 (10-17) and has driven in 10 runs. With her recent form at the plate, she now posts the second-best batting averaging in the NWC (.451).

A LOOK AT THE BEARCATS: With a 17-4 mark in NWC play, the Willamette University Bearcats sit just one-half game behind PLU in the conference standings. Willamette has used strong pitching and its speed on the base paths this season to win games. The Bearcats lead the NWC in both triples (10) and stolen bases (75). Freshman duo Theresa Martin and Heather Winslow have teamed-up to present a headache for any pitcher in the conference. Together, Martin and Winslow have combined to hit .395 with eight homeruns and 46 RBI. Alex Watilo has emerged as the ace on the staff for the Bearcats. In 18 appearances, the senior is 12-3 with a 1.83 ERA. Last time the two teams met, the Lutes picked up two victories by scores of 4-3 and 7-3 in Salem, Ore.

SERIES HISTORY: Game one of Tuesday's double header will be the 100th meeting between Pacific Lutheran and Willamette. Dating back to the 1981 season, the Lutes hold a 77-22 advantage over the Bearcats. Recently, the Lutes have won six of the past seven meeting between the two programs.    

FRIENDS AND FOES: Even though the Lutes will be looking to add two losses to the Bearcats record Tuesday afternoon, Pacific Lutheran may become Willamette's biggest fan come the weekend. Following the mid-week double header with the Lutes, Willamette will face Linfield in four crucial games on the weekend that will determine seeding at the NWC postseason tournament.

WHAT'S NEXT: Tuesday's double header is not the only action slated for the Lutes this week. This weekend, PLU wraps up its regular season with home-and-home double headers against the University of Puget Sound.               

PLU 10, Lewis & Clark 0: Pitching in her hometown, Leah Butters improved to 4-2 this season by liming the Pioneers to just three hits while walking two and striking out one. She got plenty of offensive support as the Lutes scored their 10 runs on 11 hits. For the second straight game Hatlen had a home run among her two hits, but this one was a grand slam in the fourth inning. Amanda Hall had three hits and two RBI and Katie Lowery added a pair of hits for the Lutes.

PLU 8, Lewis & Clark 0: Stacey Hagensen, the 2011 Northwest Conference Pitcher of the Year, threw her first collegiate no-hitter. She faced just 20 batters and Lewis & Clark's two baserunners came by way of PLU errors. The senior right-hander out of Newport High School in Bellevue struck out two batters while improving her record to 15-5. PLU had 10 hits in the game, including two apiece by Hagensen, Kaaren Hatlen, Glenelle Nitta and Montessa Califano. Hagensen, Hatlen and Haley Harshaw all drove in two runs. Hatlen hit a two-run homer with two outs in the first inning to start the scoring, and PLU added two more in the third with Harshaw and Hagensen collecting the RBI. Califano drove in the Lutes' fifth run of the game in the fourth inning, and a three-run sixth inning finally put the game away. Amanda Goings, Harshaw and Hagensen all drove in a run during the rally.

PLU 11, Pacific 2: The Lutes grabbed command of the game right away, scoring five runs in the first inning. After Amanda Goings reached on an error to lead off the game, Haley Harshaw followed with a two-run home run off the top of the wall in right center field. Amanda Hall added an RBI double and Lindsey Matsunaga drove her home with a solid single to right field, and later scoring on an infield single by Katie Lowery. The Lutes racked up nine of their 12 hits in the first two innings, taking a 7-0 lead on Matsunaga's two-RBI single in the second inning. Kaaren Hatlen pitched all five innings with one strikeout and two bases on balls to get the pitching victory.

PLU 8, Pacific 0: Starting pitcher Stacey Hagensen pitched six scoreless innings, allowing six hits and no walks with two strikeouts to get the win. Hagensen pitched out of jams in the first and sixth innings to notch her third shutout of the season. With PLU holding a 1-0 lead, Kaaren Hatlen led off the fourth inning with a double down the right field line. Amanda Hall drove in pinch-runner Spencer Sherwin with a single to left to make it 2-0 Lutes. After a ground out, Lindsey Matsunaga singled and Glenelle Nitta was hit by a pitch to load the bases. After Haley Harshaw's ground out scored Lowery with the second run of the inning, Amanda Goings followed with a two-RBI single up the middle to open up a 5-0 lead for the visitors. Hall drove in PLU's sixth run with a solo home run to center field in the fifth inning, then added her third RBI of the day with a single in the sixth, finishing 3-for-4 at the plate to lead the Lutes. Goings and Matsunaga each had a pair of hits and a run scored as the Lutes collected 13 hits off two Boxer pitchers.