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April 25, 2012

Lutes Headed Back To The NCAA Postseason

LUTES CLINCH AUTOMATIC BERTH: The Pacific Lutheran University softball team will have to wait nearly two weeks to find out where they will be heading for regional action in the NCAA Tournament. Pacific Lutheran wrapped up its berth in the national tournament after winning the Northwest Conference postseason tournament last weekend in McMinnville, Ore. With the conference championship in hand, the Lutes hold the automatic berth from the conference and will not have to wait for a selection committee to decide their fate. Now, PLU must wait until May 7 to see which regional site they will be sent to.

HEADING BACK TO THE POSTSEASON: With Pacific Lutheran assured a spot in the NCAA Tournament, the Lutes will be heading back to the postseason for the first time in eight seasons. One has to go back to the 2003 season to find when the Lutes last appeared in the national tournament. Leading up to the 2003 season, the program made five straight NCAA Tournament appearances going back to the 1999 campaign.

A LOOK AT THE POLLS: Despite the Lutes three wins and a conference championship title, the team failed to move up in this week's National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25 poll. In the same spot as last week, PLU holds the No. 5 spot in the poll. The Lutes did earn some additional respect however, picking up one of eight first-place votes. Linfield dropped out of the No. 1 spot to No. 3 in the poll. To view the complete NFCA Top 25 poll, click here.

RACKING UP WINS: With three wins this past weekend at the NWC championships, the Lutes improved their overall record on the season to 37-11. Those 37 wins are the most by any PLU team since the 1999 season when the team went 39-6. The record for most wins in a single season in program history is 40, set in the 1990 season.

STACKING UP NATIONALLY: Several PLU players this season have put together statistics that rank them among the best in the country. Kaaren Hatlen ranks 13th in the country in on-base percentage with a .559 mark and with nine homeruns on the season, the junior ranks 17th nationally. Senior Stacey Hagensen ranks 12th in walks per seven innings (.66), 17th in shutouts (6), 21st in victories (21), and 24st in ERA (1.27). Montessa Califano is ranked as the fifth toughest batter to strikeout in the nation. The junior strikes out only once every 45 at bats.  

PLU 3, Linfield 0: Senior Stacey Hagensen shut down the tournament host, No. 1-ranked and defending national champion Linfield Wildcats, limiting the prolific offensive machine to just two hits in a 3-0 whitewash. The Lutes scored two runs in the first inning against Linfield starter Shelby VandeBergh, the Wildcats' No. 3 pitcher who earlier this year beat PLU in Parkland. Glenelle Nitta reached first base on a Linfield error, the team's bugaboo throughout the tournament, and Hagensen and Kaaren Hatlen followed with singles with Nitta scoring on Hatlen's hit. Katie Lowery drove in Hagensen when she grounded out to short. As it turned out, Hagensen and Lutes needed only one of those runs. Not taking any chances, however, PLU added the game's final tally on Amanda Hall's fourth homer of the season in the fourth inning.  

Linfield 3, PLU 2: Pacific Lutheran's Hatlen and Linfield's VandeBergh were locked in a scoreless pitcher's duel until the sixth when the Lutes scored both of their runs. With two outs in the inning, Hatlen hit a single, Lowery walked and  Lindsey Matsunaga reached on an error. Amanda Hall followed with a double to left field, driving in Hatlen and Lowery. VandeBergh was pulled from the game in favor of Karina Paavola, who got out of the inning. Hatlen, already with a pair of wins over Linfield this season, took her shutout into the bottom of the seventh. With a runner on second and two out, a pinch hit single accounted for the first run. Another single put two runners on base and brought Hagensen to the pitcher's circle in favor of Hatlen. Hagensen hit Jaydee Baxter with a pitch to load the bases, and Staci Doucette followed with a two-run, game-deciding single. Hatlen took the hard-luck loss and the win went to Paavola. The Lutes managed just three hits in the contest compared to eight for the Wildcats.

PLU 3, Linfield 1: All of PLU's runs were unearned as the Linfield defense committed four errors. The first tally came in the second inning on a two-out error following base hits by Katie Lowery and Amanda Hall. The other two runs scored in the sixth on two hits and two errors, both by pitcher Karina Pavola. Lowery, who started the first rally with a one-out single, led off the top of the sixth with a double, and she moved to third on Hall's sacrifice bunt. When Paavola tried to get Lowery at third on a comebacker by Matsunaga, Lowery dove back safely while Matsunaga reached second base on Paavola's errant throw. Glenelle Nitta put down a bunt only to see Paavola miss fielding the ball which rolled out toward second base, allowing both Lowery and Matsunaga to score. Linfield got its only run in the bottom of the sixth on Emilee Lepp's 12th homer of the year, but that was it for the Wildcats, who managed just three hits.

PLU 3, Willamette 1: Stacey Hagensen was impressive in shutting down the Willamette offense to an unearned run on just two hits. While Hagensen didn't strike out a batter, she increased to 45 the number of consecutive innings that she has not walked a batter. Willamette scored its run on a hit and Hagensen's error in the first inning before the Lutes tied the game in the bottom of the third on two hits and a Bearcats miscue. Amanda Goings led off with a single and reached second when Haley Harshaw reached on the error. After Hagensen advanced both runners with a sacrifice bunt, Kaaren Hatlen hit a run-scoring single. Pacific Lutheran scored twice in the fourth on four hits, with Goings driving in the first tally following hits by Lindsey Matsunaga and Montessa Califano. Hagensen drove in the final run with a base hit. Hagensen then went to work, retiring the side in order in the final three innings. Goings was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI and Matsunaga had two hits to lead Pacific Lutheran's 10-hit attack.

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