Top-Ranked Linfield Edges Bearcats in Two Games

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Linfield College, ranked #1 in the NCAA Division III Top 25 by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), defeated Willamette University in a Northwest Conference doubleheader, 3-0 and 2-0 on Saturday, April 9 at the WU Softball Field. Linfield upped its record to 31-2 overall, 20-1 in the NWC. Willamette fell to 15-14 on the season, 12-9 in the NWC.

The Bearcats stayed close in both games against Linfield's high-scoring offense, which entered the doubleheader averaging 9.6 runs and 11.7 hits per game. In Saturday's twinbill, Willamette held the Wildcats to a combined five runs and 11 hits.

Linfield's pitching and defense also played well, as the teams put together a pair of hard-fought pitchers' duels.

In the first game, the Wildcats struck early for a 2-0 lead. With one out in the top of the first inning, Jaydee Baxter singled to right field. Emilee Lepp followed with a two-run homer. It was Lepp's NWC-leading 20th home run of the season.

WU starting pitcher Alex Watilo (Jr., RHP, Newcastle, CA/Del Oro HS) and Linfield pitchers Claire Velaski and Karina Paavola shut down both teams until the Wildcats added an insurance run in the top of the seventh.

Velaski allowed the Bearcats just two hits in the first five innings. Paavola entered the game in the sixth inning and eventually earned her third save while allowing one hit. Watilo, after giving up three hits in the top of the first, didn't allow Linfield another hit over the next five innings.

The Wildcats added three hits in the top of the seventh to produce the game's final run. With one out, Emily Keagbine and Alex Hartmann singled. Sami Keim reached first on an error to load the bases. Katy Brosig hit an RBI single to left field, allowing Keagbine to score.

Bri Compton (Sr., RHP, Kalispell, MT/Flathead HS/Wenatchee Valley CC) went to the circle for Willamette. She forced Kayla Hubrich to fly out to left field and then struck out Baxter.

Keagbine was the only player in Game 1 with more than one hit, as she went 2 for 3 with a run scored. Lepp's homer was the only extra-base hit of the game.

Willamette was limited to three hits. They were recorded by Mica Romero (Jr., SS, Woodland, CA/Woodland Christian School), Talissa Huntsman (Jr., UT/P, Richland, WA/Richland HS) and Courtney Galli (So., 2B/SS, Rocklin, CA/Rocklin HS).

Velaski improved to 14-1 on the season with the win. Watilo took the loss as her record went to 12-4.

The second game was another defensive battle. This time, the game was scoreless through the first five innings, as WU managed just two hits and Linfield earned only three.

In the top of the sixth, Hubrich flied out to Romero, who ranged from her position at shortstop to make the catch in shallow left field. Baxter grounded out to Romero for the second out. Lepp reached first base on an error in left field. Staci Doucette drove in the game's only runs with a homer over the left field fence.

Lauren Harvey and Paavola combined on the shutout for Linfield. Harvey allowed two hits and two walks in the first three innings. Paavola pitched the final four stanzas and struck out seven batters while holding the Bearcats without a hit.

Huntsman, who pitched all seven innings for Willamette, gave up just five hits. She struck out two batters and did not allow a walk.

Following the doubleheader with Linfield, Willamette played the University of Puget Sound in a make-up game. WU won the game 1-0. For details, please see the separate story about the WU vs. UPS game.

Willamette and Linfield will play another doubleheader at the WU Softball Field on Sunday, April 10. The action is set to start at 12 p.m. (PDT).


Linfield College 3
Willamette University 0

Linfield College 2
Willamette University 0

Mica Romero of Willamette went 3 for 6 during the doubleheader with Linfield.

Mica Romero of Willamette went 3 for 6 during the doubleheader with Linfield.