Linfield Scores Three Runs in First Inning to Defeat Bearcats, 3-1, in Series Opener

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

McMINNVILLE, ORE. -- Linfield College scored three runs in the first inning to take an early lead, as the Wildcats and star pitcher Brittany Miller defeated visiting Willamette University, 3-1, in the first game of a Northwest Conference doubleheader on Saturday, April 26 at the Linfield softball diamond. The Wildcats built a 9-2 lead and held off a late charge by the Bearcats to win the second game, 12-6.

Linfield, ranked #3 in NCAA Division III, improved to 34-2 overall, 23-1 in the NWC. Willamette, ranked #24, fell to 23-9 on the season, 17-7 in the NWC. The teams will conclude their four-game series with a doubleheader at the Willamette University Softball Field on Sunday, April 27, starting at 12 p.m. (PDT).

Miller, who threw all seven innings and struck out 14 batters in the opener, improved to 16-1 on the season. She allowed just two hits -- both by Katie Peterson (So., RF, Independence, OR/Central HS), who went 2 for 2. Nikki Franchi (Jr., RHP, Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) tossed a complete game for Willamette, while striking out six batters and allowing just three hits. Her record dropped to 17-3.

Linfield's first inning of the afternoon gave the Wildcats an early lead in what was otherwise a pitcher's duel. Stephanie Rice opened the game with a single, but was able to advance to second on an error in the outfield. Jenny Marshall followed with a bunt single, then went to second on an error by Franchi, as Rice scored the game's first run. Meredith Brunette was hit by a pitch and the next three batters walked to force in two more runs.

Franchi allowed just walk and one hit the rest of the game. Amanda Attleberger received a base on balls in the third inning and Rice hit a single in the fifth.

Although Franchi kept the Wildcats from extending their lead, Willamette was unable to rally against a solid game from Miller in the circle. The Bearcats pushed across one run in the fourth inning, when Franchi was hit by a pitch, stole second and scored on a two-out double by Peterson. Miller was able to end the inning by forcing a ground out.

Later in the game, Peterson singled to right field to start the seventh inning. She advanced to second when Nicole Wallace (So., C/2B, Roseville, CA/Roseville HS) grounded out, but Miller recorded two strikeouts to conclude the game.

The Bearcats took a 1-0 advantage in the top of the first inning of Game #2. Franchi doubled with two outs and scored on a single by Peterson.

Linfield scored twice in the bottom of the first to take the lead, then added four runs in the second inning. Erica Hancock earned an RBI with a single in the first inning and drove in two more runs with a double in the second stanza. An RBI single by Marshall in the third inning increased the Wildcats' lead to 7-1.

Peterson walked and Wallace belted a triple in the fourth inning to produce WU's second run. Linfield plated two runs in the bottom of the fifth, when Marshall brought home one run with a triple and scored on a single by Brunette.

WU pulled within 9-6 by scoring four runs on two homers in the top of the sixth inning. Franchi and LaShawna Holcomb (Jr., CF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS) singled to open the inning. Peterson followed with a three-run homer. Wallace batted next and connected for a solo home run.

After Wallace's homer, Miller entered the game as Linfield's third pitcher in the contest. She recorded four strikeouts while earning the final six outs for her second save of the season. Starter Kendra Strahm of LC improved to 15-1, while Amy Valencia (Fr., RHP, Cheyenne, WY/Cheyenne East HS) fell to 4-4.

Franchi, who leads the NWC and is ranked third in NCAA Division III in batting average, went 2 for 6 on the day. She was 0 for 2 and was hit by a pitch in the opener, then went 2 for 4 in the second game. She hit a double and scored twice.

For the Wildcats, Rice earned two of Linfield's three hits in the opener and Marshall had the other single. In the second game, Marshall went 4 for 4 with two runs and five RBIs, while Rice was 3 for 5 with four runs scored.

GAME #1 - BOX SCORE

Linfield College 3, Willamette University 1

GAME #2 - BOX SCORE

Linfield College 12, Willamette University 6

Katie Peterson went 4 for 4 with a double, a homer, two runs and five RBIs on Saturday.

Katie Peterson went 4 for 4 with a double, a homer, two runs and five RBIs on Saturday.