PARKLAND - Pacific Lutheran used strong pitching and defense in the opening game and an 11-hit offensive attack in the second contest Tuesday to sweep a Northwest Conference softball doubleheader from the visiting Willamette Bearcats at the PLU softball field.
The first game took 11 innings before the Lutes secured a 1-0 victory, and the second game ended in the bottom of the sixth when PLU scored four times to take an 8-0 run-rule triumph. Pacific Lutheran, ranked No. 6 in NCAA Division III softball, improves to 30-10 overall and to 20-4 in the conference standings. Willamette is now 18-10 overall and 17-6 in the NWC.
First Game - PLU 1, Willamette 0 (11 innings)
PLU's Stacey Hagensen and Willamette's Alex Watilo squared off in a tremendous pitcher's duel in the opener. In the end Watilo, 11-4 this season, ended up taking the hard luck loss despite limiting one of the nation's best offenses to just the one run on eight hits in 10 2/3 innings of work. In fact, she didn't allow a base runner until Hagensen hit a two-out single to right field in the fourth inning.
Hagensen went all 11 innings to get the win, which improved her season record to 16-5. She allowed nine hits and no walks while striking out five.
The game's lone run came in the bottom of the 11th and it was Hagensen who started the rally and scored the run. She led off with an infield single and moved up to second when Kaaren Hatlen flared a single into shallow left field. Both runners advanced a base on Melissa Harrelson's sacrifice bunt, and Lindsey Matsunaga hit a deep fly ball to left field, easily scoring Hagensen with the winning run.
While the game didn't feature a lot of offense, there were plenty of outstanding defensive plays - there was only one error in the game, that by Willamette, and it was inconsequential - to go along with the great pitching from Hagensen and Watilo.
PLU twice threw out Willamette base runners at home plate in the early innings. In the third, Willamette put runners on second and third with one out, but the Lutes escaped the situation when pinch hitter Hope Kloczko grounded out to third and then Nichole Robinson was tagged out at the plate trying to score. An inning later, Heather Winslow led off with her second double of the game but was nailed at the plate for the third out on a diving-catch-and-throw-home double play from junior left fielder Montessa Califano.
The Bearcats had their share of solid defense and web gems, including a running, back-handed grab in deep right-center field by Robertson to deny Katie Lowery of extra bases.
Winslow had a monster game for the Bearcats, going 4-for-4 with two doubles. Hagensen had a pair of hits to lead PLU.
Second Game - PLU 8, Willamette 0 (6 innings)
After struggling to get the offense going against the veteran Watilo, the Lutes found more success against Willamette frosh Hayley Glantz. Califano was 3-for-3 with two doubles, Haley Harshaw had a homer among her two hits, and Amanda Goings collected two singles to lead the PLU offense.
The Lutes scored an unearned run without benefit of a hit in the second inning before Harshaw's two-run homer, her second of the season, made it 3-0 PLU after three innings. The hosts added another unearned run in the fifth before closing out the game in the sixth inning.
PLU had five hits in the frame, including back-to-back-to-back doubles by Kylee Oshiro, Lowery and Califano to get things started. Harshaw added a run-scoring single before Hatlen ended the game with another RBI base hit.
Hatlen earned the pitching victory, allowing only two hits while walking four and striking out five in a six-inning complete game effort.
Willamette's only hits came in the fourth inning when Theresa Martin led off with a single and Kelli Snyder followed with a double. Hatlen escaped the jam with a ground out, pop up and fly out. The Bearcats ended up leaving seven runners on base in the game.
Pacific Lutheran closes out its 2012 regular season this weekend with a pair of doubleheaders against Puget Sound. The Lutes play at UPS on Saturday starting at noon, and then the teams come to Parkland on Sunday for another twinbill beginning at noon.
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