Written by Student Assistant Jake Bilyeu
UPDATE: Weekend series has shifted from Saturday-Sunday to Sunday-Monday due to inclement weather.
TACOMA, Wash. – After getting its first taste of adversity in Northwest Conference play last weekend, the Pacific Lutheran University softball team looks ready to regroup in search of four more wins this weekend at Willamette University.
Lute head coach Brandi Gordon Bennett is not panicking as her team tries to refocus after dropping three of its four games last weekend against George Fox University.
"I don't view the team differently," Gordon Bennett said. "When you lose, you find stuff to work on, and when you win you can get complacent at times. We've responded well this week, though, and we've been taking advantage of extra practice time."
Regardless of the results, the Lutes (11-5, 7-3 NWC) are always looking to improve every week.
"When we struggled these last few games, we had a tough time responding, but we're not getting down on the results, and we're trying to be more process oriented" Gordon Bennett said. "Also, our pitchers need to avoid giving up walks, and they've been doing better in practice at handling the strike zone."
On the other side of the equation, catcher Nichole Schroeder has been working with the Lute pitchers this week. She hopes to help the Lute defense regain control of the field this weekend.
"I always make sure that the pitchers know that I'm there for them," Schroeder said. "We just need to communicate our plan, and we've done really well with that this season, so I'm looking to turning things back around this weekend."
The bond between Schroeder and the Lute pitching staff is not unique to them. It's that type of teamwork and commitment that has worked for the Lutes' entire roster all season, and they hope to reap the benefits again this weekend in Willamette.
"When we need energy, our bench does good job creating it, and that's where our teamwork and camaraderie shows itself," Gordon Bennett said. "Additionally, our depth is still showing strength, which allows me to put our players in situations that work for them, and it makes addressing match-ups more comfortable as we swing them in our favor."
The Lutes hope to avoid the rain when they travel down to Oregon this Saturday and Sunday to face the Bearcats in Salem. First pitch on both days is 12 p.m.
Mar. 19-20: PLU vs. Willamette in Salem, Oregon (12 p.m.)
Series History: The Lutes and Bearcats have met 118 times on the diamond with PLU enjoying a commanding 90-28 advantage in the all-time series. The Lutes have won five of the last six encounters, including three of the four games played last season.
About the Bearcats: Willamette (2-5, 2-3 NWC) dropped three of its four games last weekend against Whitworth University in Hermiston, Oregon. The Bearcats dropped both games by 62- scorelines on Mar. 11 before securing a split last Sunday. Willamette fell 9-4 in the opener before closing the series with a 10-6 victory. The Bearcats cranked out 15 hits in their lone win of the series, seizing a 5-0 lead after just two innings of play.
Darian Gibson leads the Bearcats at the plate with a .458 batting average and three home runs while Alex Shields owns a team-best seven RBIs. Inside the circle, Jade Smith has logged a majority of the innings, owning a 4.48 earned run average with eight strikeouts in five starts.