Nine Games in Five Days for PLU Softball
THIS WEEK: Pacific Lutheran at Cal Lutheran (DH), Tuesday, noon; PLU at Redlands (DH), Wednesday, 3 p.m.; PLU at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Thursday, 3:30 p.m.; PLU at Willamette (DH), Friday, 2:30 p.m.; PLU at Willamette (DH), Saturday, noon.
TALK ABOUT A TOUGH SCHEDULE: The schedule will certainly be tough - and perhaps a little crazy - as Pacific Lutheran will play nine softball games over the next five days. The toughest part of that 9-in-5 schedule comes at the end with four conference road games against Willamette. It's spring break week, so the Lutes will make their second trek of the year to Southern California. (PLU was 2-3 in five games to open the season during the second week of February.) This time, they'll face a trio of regional opponents - Cal Lutheran, Redlands and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. All of those are games on back-to-back-to-back days starting on Tuesday, with doubleheaders against Cal Lutheran and Redlands and a single game against CMS. On Thursday, the Lutes board a plane, and then the following morning jump on a bus for a four-hour ride to Salem, Ore., where they will battle the Willamette Bearcats in a four-game series. The teams will play a doubleheader starting at 2:30 p.m. Friday and then will come back the next day with two more starting at noon. That's a difficult schedule for anyone, and the fact that the young Lutes have the conference counters on the end makes it that much more of a challenge.
ABOUT THE CALIFORNIA OPPONENTS: Cal Lutheran is 9-13 overall and 2-8 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC). Cal Lu recently split a doubleheader with Linfield, losing 4-2 and winning 5-3. Emily Robertson leads the team with a .404 average and with six doubles, four triples and five homers, she has a .912 slugging percentage. The Regals swept the Lutes last year, 4-1 and 3-2. Redlands is 16-7 overall and leads the SCIAC with an 11-1 record. Nicky Neumann has four homers and 23 runs batted in to go along with a .432 batting average, and Olivia Ellis is 9-3 with a 2.38 earned run average in the pitcher's circle. Redlands has been swept by Linfield this year, losing 10-2 and 7-4. The Lutes and Bulldogs split last year, Redlands winning the opener 9-0 before PLU came back for a 3-0 win in the nightcap. Finally, the CMS Athenas are 18-4 overall and 10-2 in the SCIAC, one game back of Redlands. CMS does have a sweep over Linfield to its credit this year, winning those games by 7-3 and 3-2 scores. Harmony Palmer has a .414 average, three homers and 26 RBI, and Rebecca Gularte is the ace with a 10-2 record and a 1.80 earned run average.
ABOUT WILLAMETTE: The Bearcats occupy second place in the Northwest Conference standings with a 10-1 record, trailing only 11-1 Linfield. Willamette is 18-5 overall and does not play again until the Lutes roll into town on Friday. The Bearcats are hitting .331 as a team, with a trio of players all in the .390 range. Sierra Lessel leads the way with a .397 average and she is 12-for-14 on stolen base attempts. Bri Compton has a .394 average with two homers, and Mica Romero is at .391 with team highs of three homers and 27 runs batted in. Compton is the ace, compiling an 8-0 record and a 2.62 earned run average up to this point.
LINFIELD SWEEPS PLU: The Lutes found a 14-day break from competitive softball to be a detriment in their Saturday afternoon opener at defending conference champion Linfield as the Wildcats scored a 10-2 win in six innings. PLU got right back into it in the second game, however, before dropping a close 4-3 decision. The doubleheader featured the two teams atop the Northwest Conference standings, and it is now Linfield that has regained the lead from the Lutes. In the opener, Claire Velaski tossed a three-hitter, fanning eight Lutes on the way to her sixth pitching victory of the season. Velaski and PLU starter Ramona Lorton matched four shutout innings before the Wildcats exploded for seven runs in the fifth inning, including a three-run homer from Emily Keagbine. The Lutes fought back in the top of the sixth. Stacey Hagensen’s triple drove home Caitlin Brown from first base. Another run-scoring single by Beth Haahr cut the PLU deficit to 7-2. Linfield came right back with three runs in the bottom of the sixth to end the game on the eigth-run rule. Lorton took the loss, her first against four victories this season. Lepp’s RBI single in the fourth inning provided the difference in the second game, though the outcome remained in question until the final out. Linfield built a 3-0 lead after three innings, with Karleigh Prestianni hammering her eighth home run of the season to score two of the runs. PLU plated a run in the fourth when Kaaren Hatlen doubled down the right-field line and then scored on a single by Lauren Watson. Linfield pushed across what proved to be the winning run in the fourth when Lepp drove in Kayla Hubrick, who led off with a double. PLU made the game interesting in the final two innings. Brown and Hatlen took turns driving in runs with singles to draw the Lutes within one run. The Lutes had the tying run in scoring position in the seventh, but a fly ball ended the contest. Monti Califano went 3-for-3 for the Lutes and Hatlen and Watson each had two hits for PLU.
LUTES, BOXERS RAINED OUT: Continued rain showers and very sloppy field conditions forced Pacific and Pacific Lutheran to postpone their scheduled Sunday afternoon Northwest Conference softball doubleheader. The coaches had agreed to try to get in at least one of the games through what were initially light showers. The rain intensified as it got closer to game time, however, forcing the postponement. The games will be made up at a later date.
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