Written by Student Assistant Jake Bilyeu
MCMINNVILLE, Ore. – The Pacific Lutheran University softball team looked strong as they split two road games on Saturday with eighth-ranked Linfield College. Despite falling 5-1 in the opener, the Lutes rebounded and shut out the Wildcats in the second game 3-0 to remain within striking distance of second place in the Northwest Conference standings.
After taking an early 1-0 lead in the opening game, the Lute (15-8, 11-7 NWC) offense struggled to put plays together late. The Wildcat (21-5, 10-4) offense delivered five runs in the first four innings, which was more than enough to hold off the Lutes, who got only three hits out of their batters in the final six innings.
The Lute offense opened the second game strong as well. After Samantha Simundson got on base with a single, Anna Overland sent the ball over the fences to bring two runs home. The Lutes scored again in the fourth, when Jessica Wallace reached home on a throwing error.
The biggest plays for the Lutes came on the defensive end, though, as Elli Rassbach pitched a complete game shutout while the fielders behind her committed no errors. The Wildcats even had runners on second and third with one out in the fourth inning, but Rassbach outed the next two batters on a line drive and a grounder.
Simundson led the Lutes offensively in game one with a pair of hits while Kathryn Hatlen finished two-for-three at the plate in game two.
"I was impressed with the team's effort to stay focused going in to game two and getting the win," head coach Brandi Gordon Bennett said. "They rose to the challenge, and Elli threw a great game against a good team."
Saturday's split gives the Lutes a chance to take possession of second place in the NWC standings with a sweep on Sunday.
"We set some very specific process goals for the team to focus on and we met some of those marks in game two and it paid off for the win," Gordon Bennett said. "However, we are going to have to have better at-bats 1-9 tomorrow to challenge them in both games."
The Lutes take the field Sunday at noon to close out the weekend series.