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March 2, 2011

Lutes Hope to Start NWC Softball Play this Weekend

THIS WEEKEND: Pacific Lutheran (1-3 overall) hosts Willamette (2-4 overall, 2-2 NWC) in a pair of Northwest Conference doubleheaders, Saturday at 1 p.m., Sunday at noon.

PLEASE NOTE THE START TIME ON SATURDAY: It has to be noted here that Pacific Lutheran and Willamette will start their Saturday doubleheader at 1 p.m. rather than the usual noon starting time. The Sunday twinbill will begin at noon, as is the case with every other doubleheader throughout the conference for the remainder of the season.

LISTEN LIVE: Pacific Lutheran home softball games may be heard on the internet at http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/plu.portal. Select the appropriate game to hear the action called by a team of PLU student broadcasters, among them Ben Tully and Landyn Rookard.

IT'S ALWAYS "WEATHER PERMITTING" IN THE SPRING: After seeing a pair of Northwest Conference doubleheaders postponed last week by snow and freezing conditions, Pacific Lutheran hopes to kick off its conference campaign when its hosts the Willamette Bearcats this Saturday and Sunday - weather permitting! The Lutes were scheduled to open their NWC slate last Saturday and Sunday against George Fox and Lewis & Clark, respectively, but the weather simply didn't cooperate. Those games have been rescheduled. PLU will host Lewis & Clark in a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. Friday, March 11, and then will see George Fox come to Parkland for a 1 p.m. doubleheader start on Saturday, March 19.

WE'RE NOT THE ONLY ONES: Inclement spring weather has wreaked havoc with all of the Northwest Conference teams at one time or another in the early weeks of the season. PLU is joined by Linfield and Puget Sound as teams with only four games under their belts this spring. Linfield's games, by the way, came in a four-game sweep of Whitworth in the conference-opening series for both teams. The games were moved to wind-swept and cold Pasco from Spokane, however, because the latter location was deluged by about 8-10 inches of snow. On the other end of the spectrum, both George Fox and Whitworth have played 10 games, while Pacific has played nine.

ABOUT WILLAMETTE: After losing a pair of non-conference games against Oregon Tech (7-1) and Concordia (2-1) to open the season, Willamette split a four-game conference series against visiting Pacific last weekend. Junior pitcher Alex Watilo earned NWC Pitcher of the Week honors after picking up the two victories last week. She threw a total of 12 innings, allowing just seven hits while striking out five and walking one. Watilo has made three total appearances this season and is 2-0 with a 1.26 earned run average. Bri Compton has started three games for the Bearcats and is 0-3 with a 3.42 earned run average. It's still very early in the season, but the usually potent Willamette offense has been less than that so far as the team has compiled a .261 batting average. Talissa Huntsman (.417) and Susie Krewer (.333) are the only regulars hitting above .300. One thing you can always count on a Willamette team to do is to steal lots of bases, and that is certainly true of this team as the Bearcats already have 17 steals (on 22 attempts) in their six games.

SERIES HISTORY: From a long-range historical perspective, PLU has clearly dominated Willamette with 72 wins and just 21 losses in face-to-face meetings.  In fact, between 1985 and 2004, Pacific Lutheran was 60-2 against Willamette, with the losses coming in 1994 and 2001. The Bearcats have gotten much better in recent years, however, and in fact have won eight of the last 12 games between the clubs dating back to the 2007 season.

LUTE NOTES: So while Willamette comes into the weekend series having played last Saturday and Sunday, the Lutes have (for the most part) been in the field house taking batting practice and fielding ground balls off of the artificial turf surface. Only in the last couple of days has the team been able to get out on the field, and then only while dodging raindrops. So the Lutes are hungry to get back out on the field and face some competition. PLU hopes to break out the bats in a big way against the Bearcats after struggling to a .230 team average at the Northwest Cup held two weekends ago in Gresham, Ore. Junior outfielder Amanda Goings, a transfer from Montana State-Billings, was 3-for-7 in those games and leads the team with a .429 average, while junior all-conference utility player Stacey Hagensen showed that she is again a major force in the conferernce. Hagensen hit .417 and had three doubles and a homer among her five tournament hits. She carries a .917 slugging percentage, a .462 on-base percentage, and even stole a base. Hagensen also showed her talent in the pitching circle with a 1-1 record and a stingy 0.75 earned run average. Frosh Ami Gran leads the Lutes with a pair of stolen bases in as many attempts.

DULY NOTED: In looking over stats from the first four games, it should be noted that third-year PLU head coach Erin Van Nostrand went into the Northwest Cup with the intention of giving four different pitchers starts. That happened. In addition, besides a few veteran players, Van Nostrand also determined that she would give lots of new players an opportunity to showcase their talents. That also happened, so don't infer too much from that opening tournament. Besides, the Lutes have played only four games this season, leaving 90 percent of the campaign still ahead.

WHAT THE NWC COACHES SAY: While Linfield has been picked by the conference coaches to win their eighth straight NWC crown, Willamette drew the notice of the coaches and were picked to finish second this season. Pacific Lutheran, meanwhile, was the choice of conference coaches to finish fourth for the third straight year.

- PLU -