SALEM, Va. - Amanda Hall drove a one-out single through the middle of the diamond in the bottom of the 12th inning Sunday to give Pacific Lutheran a 2-1 win over Montclair State and with it a berth in the NCAA Division III Softball Championship title game on Monday.
The Lutes, 44-11 this season, will face either Northwest Conference rival and defending national champion Linfield or Montclair State depending on which of the two survives the 11 a.m. (EDT) Monday elimination game.
That game, and the ensuing national championship contest, have both been pushed back an hour by a severe thunderstorm warning in the area. The title game is expected to begin at 1:30 p.m. (EDT) and can be viewed on a live videocast at www.ncaa.com/liveschedule.
Head coach Erin Van Nostrand brought Hall to Pacific Lutheran to protect All-American Kaaren Hatlen in the lineup, telling Hall that she would help get the Lutes to the national tournament. That has happened, and now Hall has helped get her team to within a win of a championship.
Hall was the hitting hero for the second consecutive game. Yesterday, she hit a three-run sixth inning homer that put the Lutes ahead in what turned out to be a 5-3 win over Linfield. Tonight, with the bases loaded, she took a 1-1 pitch from Montclair State hard-luck loser and first team All-American Alex Hill right back up the middle, driving in Montessa Califano with the winning run.
"I had been successful my last few at bats," Hall said. "I was looking for something I could hit up the middle or the other way."
The hit made a winner of Pacific Lutheran's own All-American, Stacey Hagensen, who improved her record to 27-5. The senior right-hander was simply outstanding, limiting the Red Hawks to just four hits while striking out eight and walking no one in the complete-game performance.
The 12-inning performance by Hagensen was the longest of her career, topping by one inning the 11 innings of shutout ball she recorded against Willamette in a 1-0 PLU victory earlier this season. She retired the first 11 batters and the last 10 batters of the game and threw 138 pitchers in her 12 innings.
"She wasn't quite perfect but she was awful close to it today," PLU assistant coach Greg Seeley said of Hagensen.
Hagensen made only one mistake pitch all game long and Dana Amato clubbed it well over the fence in left field for her 10th home run of the season in the fourth inning. Amato later had a bloop double in the ninth inning and finished 2-for-5 in the game. Other than Amato circling the bases and reaching second on her double, only two other Montclair State base runners got as far as second base against Hagensen.
Pacific Lutheran scored the game's first run in the bottom of the third inning when Lindsey Matsunaga drew a leadoff walk, moved up a base on Haley Harshaw's sacrifice bunt, and then scored on a single by Califano past diving shortstop Priscilla Camacho.
After Amato's home run tied the game, the Lutes squandered numerous opportunities against Hill, who finished the game giving up 10 hits and four walks while striking out nine PLU batters. Pacific Lutheran left a total of 11 runners on base, eight of them in scoring position, before Hall finally came up with the big hit.
"Every team that wants to go to a national championship has a game like that, where they've just got to scratch and claw. Their pitcher is really, really good," Van Nostrand said. "So take your hats off to her because she's tough. We just found a way to get it done."
The bottom of the 12th inning started with Califano getting her third hit of the game by beating out an infield single to second base. She then stole second base, her fourth steal of the game, which tied a Division III Softball Championship single-game record. She advanced to third base when Glenelle Nitta's sacrifice bunt was thrown low to first base, and then Hagensen, who had two hits, was walked intentionally to load the bases with no outs.
Hill struck out pinch hitter Ami Gran, bringing Hall to the plate, and the junior transfer out of Kennewick by way of Columbia Basin College provided the key hit for the second straight contest.
Four players accounted for PLU's 10 hits. Califano was 3-for-4 with a run and RBI, Hall was 3-for-6 with a RBI, Hagensen was 2-for-5, and Harshaw was 2-for-4.
And now Pacific Lutheran, a team that felt slighted last year when it was not extended an at-large bid to the NCAA national tournament, finds itself one win away from the 2012 Division III championship.
- PLU -