Seventh Inning Slam Give PLU Sweep Over Bearcats

SALEM, OR - Gretchen Ruecker hit a grand slam in the top of the seventh inning, propelling Pacific Lutheran University to an 8-4 win and a sweep of Saturday's doubleheader against the Willamette University softball team.

PLU won the first game 3-0 behind the four-hit shutout of Candace Howard as the Lutes improve to 15-7 overall, 8-2 NWC. The Bearcats fall to 7-11, 3-5 NWC.

Ruecker's blast came just a half inning after the Bearcats had tied the game at 4-4 when LaShawna Holcomb tripled home Marissa Richards. But after a strikeout, pinch-hitter Molly Barnes flied to center and Holcomb was doubled up at the plate to leave the game deadlocked.

The Lutes then loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the seventh and Ruecker hit a line drive over the right field fence to make a winner of Howard. She pitched the final 3.1 innings in relief of Cathy Kirkevold.

Willamette took a 1-0 lead when Nikki Franchi hit her second hoe run of the season in the bottom of the first inning. Franchi finished the game 2-3 with one RBI and two runs scored. Richards was 2-4 with two runs scored.

Brittney Tachara battled the entire game, giving up 11 hits and five earned runs while striking out seven

PLU 3, Willamette 0

Candace Howard pitched a four-hit shutout and Theresa Tauscher was 3-4 with two RBI as the Lutes beat Willamette 3-0 in the first game of the rain-plagued doubleheader.

Nikki Franchi struck out seven all allowed only two earned runs in her seven innings of work, but Howard was able to keep the Bearcats off the board.

PLU manufactured a first inning run when Ericka Hazen led off with a base-hit, went all the way to third on Liz Stuhmiller's bunt single and then stole home to put the Lutes up 1-0.

PLU made it 2-0 in the third when Gretchen Ruecker walked with two outs and came home to score on Tauscher's double. Tauscher drove home the Lutes' third run in the fifth when she knocked in Hazen who had reached on an error.

The Bearcats' best chance to score came in the bottom of the fourth when singles by Liz Gilgan and Geneva Hale, and a walk to Marissa Richards loaded the bases. But Franchi lined out hard to center field for the final out of the inning.

Willamette plays UPS Sunday in a doubleheader beginning at noon.