SALEM, Va. - Pacific Lutheran, 43-11 this season, will play Montclair State (N.J.), 44-7, at 5 p.m. (EDT) Sunday, with the winner advancing to the NCAA Division III Softball Championship title game scheduled for Monday afternoon at Moyer Complex.
The Lutes and the Red Hawks are the two remaining unbeaten teams after Saturday's second day of competition at the national tournament. PLU defeated fellow Northwest Conference member Linfield today, 5-3, after Friday's 8-0 opening round victory over Luther (Iowa), while Montclair State beat local favorite Roanoke (Va.) today, 2-0, after beating Plattsburg State (N.Y.), 1-0, in the opening round.
With 44 wins this season, the 2012 Red Hawks have established a new single-season mark for victories, surpassing the previous standard of 43 set in 2008. Similarly, with 43 wins, the 2012 PLU squad has set a new program single-season victories record, breaking the old mark of 40 set in 1990.
The Red Hawks win games with great pitching and defense. Their pitchers have a combined 1.25 earned run average, and the defense is among the best in Division III softball with a .972 fielding percentage.
The star of the Red Hawks is sophomore pitcher Alex Hill, a first team All-American and the winner in both of Montclair State's victories in this tournament. Hill is 32-4 this season with a 0.87 earned run average. She has started 33 games, completing 30 of them, with 20 shutouts and five saves. In 248 1/3 inning she has allowed only 31 earned runs on 140 hits, which equates to a .160 batting average for opponents. Amazingly, she has struck out 323 while walking just 22 batters.
Hill is the hitting leader with a .338 batting average, while sophomore third baseman Dana Amato provides the pop with nine homers, 13 doubles and 43 runs batted in to go with a .336 batting average. Junior outfielder Jamie Paulino, who leads the team with 18 steals, is the only other player on the team with a batting average above .300 - she hits .309.
Montclair State won 26 of its first 27 games, lost the New Jersey Athletic Conference tournament title to Roan, and then won four straight games at the Union (N.J.) Regional to advance to the NCAA Division III Softball Championship.
- PLU -