SPOKANE, Wash. – Down to their final strike and in grave danger of losing their lead in the Northwest Conference softball standings, the Whitworth Pirates pulled out a miraculous 6-5 rally in Saturday's second game to earn a split with visiting Linfield College.
The second-place Wildcats ran away with the opener 15-2 in five innings and led 5-1 going into the bottom of the seventh of the second game. But Kelsey Downey's two-out, two-strikes, bases-loaded triple sent the game into an extra inning and Tessa Matthews ended it with a two-out, walk-off home run.
The comeback walk-off win, Whitworth's fourth in their last five games, means the Pirates are 27-10 overall and 19-7 in the NWC with two games left in the regular season. Linfield (25-12, 17-9) is two games behind and must sweep Sunday's doubleheader to force a share of the NWC title and claim the right to host the conference's post-season tournament. Sunday's doubleheader is scheduled to start at noon.
Game 1 – Linfield 15, Whitworth 2 (5 innings)
Melanie Oord went 4-5, drove in five runs and scored three times, while Danielle Duman and Kenzie Schmoll each drove in three to lead the Wildcats to the runaway win.
Linfield scored three runs in the first inning against Whitworth starting pitcher Madi Perez (9-7). Oord's RBI single plated the first run and Duman's two-run double capped the rally.
Linfield added four runs in the third and six more fourth to blow the game open. Schmoll doubled to drive in her first run of the game in the third inning. Oord and Duman drove in runs in both the third and fourth inning rallies.
Oord then homered to right field in the sixth, a two-run shot and her third of the year, to increase the lead to 15-1.
Whitworth scored its final run on an RBI single off of the bat of Chelsey Hayes.
Shelby Saylors started in the circle for Linfield and allowed one run on two hits to improve to 14-2. Brooke Chapman finished up, giving up one run on one hit and a walk. Perez went 3.1 innings for Whitworth and allowed 11 runs (10 earned) on 11 hits. Kymber Devlin made her pitching debut for the Bucs and allowed four runs on five hits in 1.2 innings of relief.
Schmoll and Jacinda Swiger each went 3-4 and Cheyenne Fletcher scored four times for Linfield. Whitworth only managed three hits in the game.
Game 2 – Whitworth 6, Linfield 5 (8 innings)
Whitworth did not take a lead in the entire doubleheader until Mathews drilled her second home run of the season off of Saylors with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning.
The fact that the Pirates even got to the eighth inning was a miracle in itself. The Bucs needed to score four runs in the bottom of the seventh to rally from a 5-1 deficit. Whitworth loaded the bases with one out on a walk, single and hit-by-pitch. Hayes singled to short right field to pull the Pirates within 5-2. But Saylors, who had come on in relief in the sixth inning, struck out Shannon Wessel for the second out of the inning. Downey worked the count to 2-2 and fouled off a pitch before driving the ball over the right fielder's head, clearing the bases and tying the game. Saylor struck out Silva with Downey on third as the potential winning run.
Whitworth pitcher Makayla Lefever gave up a leadoff single in the top of the eighth inning and the Wildcats had runners on second and third with two outs before Lefever induced Emily Allen to pop out to second base for the final out.
Saylor retired the first two batters she faced in the bottom of the eighth before Matthews drove a 1-0 pitch over the center field wall to win the game.
Linfield scored its first run when Fletcher homered with two outs in the bottom of the first inning. But Lefever kept the score 1-0 until Silva could tie the game in the fourth with an RBI double.
The Wildcats appeared on their way to a doubleheader sweep after scoring three runs in the fifth and one more in the sixth inning to take a late 5-1 lead. Oord had another RBI single in the three-run fifth to finish the day with six RBIs. Kaela Ingram had an RBI double in the sixth, only her third base hit of the season.
Lefever persevered to go the distance, her 15th complete-game of the season, allowing five runs (three earned) on nine hits. She struck out six and walked three while improving to 17-3 this season.
Brynn Lio started in the circle for only the second time this season and pitched very well. She left the game with a 5-1 lead in the sixth, having allowed only three hits but she finished with no decision. Saylors (14-3) took the loss in relief after giving up five runs on four hits in 2.1 innings of work.