THIS WEEK: The Pacific Lutheran University softball team travels to McMinnville, Ore., this weekend after earning a spot in the Northwest Conference postseason tournament. Pacific Lutheran enters the four-team double elimination tournament as the No. 2 seed following a 24-4 record in NWC play. Last weekend, the Lutes went 4-0 against the University of Puget Sound cementing their spot in the conference post season. Tournament host Linfield College (25-3, No. 1 seed, 35-3 overall) Willamette University (19-9, No. 3 seed, 20-13 overall), and George Fox University (15-13, No. 4 seed, 20-20 overall) fill out the four-team tournament. Saturday afternoon, the Lutes take on No. 3-seeded Willamette in a first-round contest following the conclusion of the opening contest between Linfield and George Fox. First pitch Saturday is set for 1:30 p.m. The tournament champion earns the NWC's automatic berth in the NCAA Division III postseason national tournament. Any other team qualifying for NCAA play would have to be extended an at-large bid by the tournament selection committee.
LAST YEAR: Linfield went undefeated in the initial NWC tournament and beat Pacific Lutheran, 11-6, in the championship game. The Wildcats went on to win the NCAA Division III national championship.
TOURNAMENT INFORMATION: Pacific Lutheran's schedule the rest of the weekend will be determined by the outcome of its first round game. To view the complete tournament schedule and to find tournament information on ticketing and venue location, click here. To view live stats of all tournament games, click here.
HAGENSEN HONORED…AGAIN: Stacey Hagensen picked up yet another NWC honor this week after her outstanding pitching performances last week. The senior was named NWC Pitcher of the Week after going 3-0 on the week, picking up two wins over UPS and one win over Willamette. In 20 innings pitched, Hagensen did not surrender a run while striking out 12. This week marks the third time this season the senior has been named NWC Pitcher of the Week.
PLU IN THE POLLS: Despite picking up six wins last week, Pacific Lutheran failed to move up in this week's National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25 poll. With a 33-10 overall record on the season, the Lutes hold the No. 5 spot in this week's Top 25 poll. Linfield picked up all eight first-place votes and holds the No. 1 spot in the rankings. To view the complete NFCA Top 25, click here.
SCOUTING THE BEARCATS: The Willamette University Bearcats enter this weekend's tournament holding the No. 3 seed. WU went 19-9 in NWC play this season but have lost five of its last six games heading into the weekend. The Lutes and Bearcats have met four times this season with PLU sweeping the regular season series and outscoring the Bearcats 20-6. Willamette's tournament hopes rest on the shoulders of senior pitcher Alex Watilo, who is 13-5 with a 1.79 earned run average. She had very strong outings against both PLU and Linfield last week, losing an 11-inning 1-0 game at PLU and shutting out No. 1-ranked Linfield on two hits. Offensively, Theresa Martin leads the team with a .423 average and 28 RBI, while Heather Winslow is hitting .354 with a team-high five homers. Jessica Barry provides speed on the bases with 18 steals as a leadoff hitter.
TAMING THE WILDCATS: Linfield College picked up its ninth consecutive NWC championship last weekend after picking up three wins over Willamette. The No. 1-ranked Wildcats finished the season just one game ahead of the Lutes with a 25-3 record in NWC action. After picking up two wins in McMinnville early in NWC play, the Lutes drop two against Linfield at home to even the season series at 2-2. Linfield has a .366 team batting average with 63 homers and an average of nearly 8.2 runs scored per game. Staci Doucette is hitting .514 with 17 homers and 55 RBI. Karleigh Prestianni (.445, 8 HR, 39 RBI), Emilee Lepp (.414, 11 HR, 49 RBI, 24 SB) and Jaydee Baxter (.412, 4 HR, 23 RBI) are all hitting better than .400. Karina Paavola is 18-1 this year (the only loss to PLU) with a 1.52 earned run average and Lauren Harvey is 15-2 with a 2.18 ERA.
A LOOK AT THE BRUINS: With a 20-20 overall record in 2012, the George Fox University Bruins round out the four-team field. Going 15-13 in NWC play, the Bruins will have a tough opening round match up with Linfield. The Lutes and Bruins met four times in 2012. PLU came away with a 3-1 record in the weekend series, though two of the Lutes' wins were by narrow 3-2 scores. The Bruins are hitting .282 as a team compared to .303 for their opponents. Leading the GFU offense are Jenny Milton (.341 average), Felicia Chavez (.338) and Kris Trindle (.304). Erin Hento has started 15 games and has a 7-8 record wtih a 3.57 earned run average.
LUTE NOTES: Pacific Lutheran enters the tournament hitting .340 as a team with 30 homers and 296 runs, an average of 6.7 per contest. Junior Kaaren Hatlen is raking this year with a .466 batting average, 12 doubles, nine homers and 49 runs batted in. Junior outfielder Montessa Califano is hitting .392, senior pitcher/outfielder Stacey Hagensen is at .391 with five homers and 32 RBI, while junior first baseman Amanda Hall is hitting .379 with three homers and 33 RBI. Senior outfielder Amanda Goings provides speed on the base paths with 22 steals while hitting .324 in the leadoff spot. Sophomore shortstop Lindsey Matsunaga drives in runs with six homers and 34 RBI. Hagensen, last year's NWC Pitcher of the Year, is 18-5 with a 1.22 earned run average this season. She has walked only 14 batters in 143 innings, 10th best in Division III softball. PLU's defense is often overlooked, but it should be noted that the Lutes' .970 fielding percentage is 15th best in the country. In fact, Pacific Lutheran is ranked in the top 40 in nine team statistical categories.