Postseason on the Line as Bearcats Face Sixth-Ranked Linfield

Doubleheaders in McMinnville Saturday, Salem on Sunday

By Timothy Walsh, Assistant Athletics Communications Director

SALEM, ORE. -- Clinging to a half-game lead over fifth place George Fox University in the Northwest Conference standings, Willamette University softball's postseason hopes will be on the line this weekend when the Bearcats play four games against the NWC's top team: archrival Linfield College.

Willamette and Linfield will play doubleheaders on Saturday, April 12 and Sunday, April 13. While both twinbills will start at 12 p.m., Saturday's games will take place in McMinnville, while Sunday's matchups will be in Salem, at the Willamette Softball Field.

The Bearcats enter the weekend at 16-16 overall, including 12-10 in the NWC. As of the afternoon of Friday, April 11, Willamette has just a half-game lead over George Fox University (23-12, 12-11 NWC) for fourth place in the conference standings.

The Bruins will play four games against second-place Pacific University (20-9, 15-8 NWC) this weekend, while sixth-place Pacific Lutheran University (13-23, 10-14 NWC) faces last place University of Puget Sound (2-28, 1-23 NWC).

Whitworth University (22-13, 14-9 NWC) is comfortably in third place in the conference standings.

The top four teams at the end of the regular season will qualify for the round-robin NWC tournament, which determines the NWC's automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs.

Facing a backloaded schedule filled with makeup dates for rained out or postponed games earlier in the season, Willamette played five games last week, going 2-3.

On Sunday, April 6, the Bearcats split a doubleheader at Lewis & Clark College, before defeating Pacific Lutheran 7-5 on Tuesday, April 8 at home. The Bearcats then dropped a pair of games against George Fox on Wednesday, April 9.

Heather Winslow (Jr., OF, Oregon City, OR/Oregon City HS) leads the Bearcats with a .412 batting average this year. She also ranks atop the team in on-base percentage (.540) and stolen bases (24). Her stolen bases total ranks second in the NWC.

Ashley Pender (So., 2B, Reno, NV/North Valley HS) is batting .385 for Willamette. Her team-leading 30 RBIs rank fifth in the conference. Pender also leads the Bearcats in doubles, with 10.

Erin Norris (Jr., C/3B, Salem, OR/South Salem HS) owns a .337 average at the plate, with a team-best five home runs to go with 23 RBIs. Kayla Rieger (Jr., OF, Anacortes, WA/Anacortes HS/Adelphi Univ.) is batting .315.

As always, Willamette has been aggressive running the bases. The Bearcats have been successful on 86 of 104 attempted steals, led by Winslow's 24 successful swipes. Jenna King (Jr., OF, Camarillo, CA/Adolfo Camarillo HS) is a perfect 16 of 16.

Freshman pitcher Jade Smith (Chico, CA/Chico HS) is 11-4 on the season with a 1.99 earned run average. She has achieved 44 strikeouts against just 18 walks in 105.2 innings pitched.

Linfield, ranked sixth in NCAA Division III by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, is 28-6 on the season and 22-2 (1st place) in the NWC. The Wildcats have won seven games in a row and nine of their last 10.

Linfield's offense features two regular players batting over .400 on the year: Katy Brosig at .453 and Ashley Garcia at .413. Erin Kinney is batting .391 for the Wildcats.

In the circle, all three Linfield pitchers boast an ERA under 2.00. Karina Paavola, the Wildcats' ace, is 16-3 on the year with a 1.68 ERA, while Shelby VandeBergh is 9-2 with a 1.66 ERA. Montana McNealy, who has primarily pitched in relief, has a 1.97 ERA and a 2-1 record in 19 appearances.

FOLLOW THE GAMES

Saturday, April 12
Willamette @ Linfield
Live Video Webcast
Live Stats
Coverage starts at 12 p.m.

Sunday, April 13
Willamette vs. Linfield
Live Video Webcast
Live Stats
Coverage starts at 11:45 a.m.

Heather Winslow leads Willamette with a .412 batting average. The Bearcats' leadoff hitter, she ranks second in the NWC with 24 stolen bases.

Heather Winslow leads Willamette with a .412 batting average. The Bearcats' leadoff hitter, she ranks second in the NWC with 24 stolen bases.