Written by Student Assistant Jake Bilyeu
SALEM, Ore. – The Pacific Lutheran University softball team regained some critical momentum on Sunday afternoon by earning two wins against host Willamette University, downing the Bearcats 10-3 and 4-1. The wins brought the Lutes into a tie with Linfield College for second place in the Northwest Conference standings with a chance to take sole possession of second with two more wins on Monday.
The Lutes (13-5, 9-3 NWC) displayed the consistent offense that head coach Brandi Gordon Bennett had been looking for in their first game Sunday. Emily McConnell provided a big two-run homer in the middle of an early onslaught that saw the Lutes pile up five runs in three innings. Then in the sixth, Amy King doubled to score two more runs and later stole home to add to the Lute lead. The team ultimately scored 10 runs on 15 hits to take the first game 10-3.
Marissa Miller claimed the win for the Lutes inside the circle, striking out three while the Bearcats' (2-7, 2-5 NWC) Jade Smith suffered the loss after lasting just 2 1/3 innings and yielding five runs.
The Lute defense led the way in game two, letting an early run slip through in the first before cracking down and allowing no more runs and yielding just four hits in the marathon nine-inning affair.
PLU evened things up in the fourth on a single from Kathryn Hatlen, and the game would remain tied from there, bringing on extra innings.
After a scoreless eighth, the Lutes scored three unearned runs on a pair of throwing errors and a single from Elli Rassbach to take a 4-1 lead. The Bearcats got two runners on base in the bottom of the ninth before running out of chances, as the Lutes picked up the win.
Rassbach went the distance in game two, pitching all nine innings, striking out two and allowing just six hits while Anna Overland paced the Lutes at the plate with a two-for-four performance.
"I am proud of the team for working hard in practice this week and it showing into today's performance. It was great to see our pitchers get ahead early in counts today and their improvement in that area made a huge difference," head coach Brandi Gordon Bennett said. "It's a great experience for our team to be in a tight, extra inning ball game and stick together to get the win in game two."
Despite the strong defensive performance in game two, coach Gordon Bennett hopes that the Lutes can perform better at the plate, and avoid relying too much on their performance on the other end of the field.
"We came out hot in game one and struggled early in game two at the plate," Gordon Bennett said. "We need to make adjustments sooner in game three and four, and we will do that."
The Lutes will take the field at 11 a.m. Monday as they hope to sweep the weekend against the Bearcats.