SPOKANE, Wash. – Shannon Wessel drilled a three-run home run and Makayla Lefever pitched her second straight complete game to lift Whitworth to a 9-5 win over visiting Linfield in Sunday's opener of a Northwest Conference softball doubleheader, clinching a second straight NWC regular season title for the Pirates. Linfield dominated Sunday's series finale 19-0 in five innings.
The Wildcats needed to sweep today's games to catch Whitworth in the standings. The Bucs (28-11 overall, 20-8 NWC) have earned the right to host next week's NWC tournament at Diana Marks Field and will be the top seed. Whitworth will host fourth-seeded Pacific (17-11 NWC) in Friday's first game of the tournament (9:00 am).
Linfield (26-13, 18-10) finished tied for second place in the standing with George Fox and will now be the #3 seed in the tournament with the claiming Bruins the second seed on tiebreakers. They will play each other in Friday's other first round matchup (11:30 am) at Marks Field.
Game 1 – Whitworth 9, Linfield 5
Chelsey Hayes went 4-4 and scored three runs while Wessel broke a 5-5 tie with her three-run homer in the fifth inning to lead the Pirates to the conference championship-clinching victory.
Whitworth jumped out to a 5-1 lead before Linfield tied the game 5-5 in the third inning. But then Lefever settled down and shut out the Wildcats over their final four at-bats.
Lefever allowed five runs on eight hits, but only two of those hits came after that third inning. She got out of a jam in the fourth when center fielder Alyssa Hall gunned down pinch runner Maddy Colson at the plate to keep the game tied. Lefever did not allow a hit over the final three innings and improved to 18-3 this season with her 16th complete game.
Lefever got help from her defense in the final innings. First Michelle Silva dove to catch a foul ball off of third base with the go-ahead run still at second to end the fourth inning. Then Wessel prevented a lead-off double in the fifth by chasing down a ball in deep right-center field. Finally Kelsey Downey stopped a lead-off single in the sixth when she dove from her spot at second base to catch a line drive.
Whitworth, playing as the visiting team on the scoreboard, took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first after Hayes singles with two outs and scored on Wessel's double to left field. But Linfield tied it in the bottom of the first on Erin Kinney's RBI single.
Morgan Portlock led off the top of the second with a double and eventually scored on Tessa Matthew's single. The Pirates then increased the lead to 5-1 in the top of the third on Portlock's bases-loaded triple to right field.
But Linfield tied it right back up in the bottom of the third. Jacinda Swiger tripled to open the inning and scored on a ground out. Cheyenne Fletcher then doubled and eventually scored from third on a sacrifice fly. Danielle Duman then lifted a high home run just over the wall in right field, a two-run shot that tied the game.
Neither team scored in the fourth inning. Then Wessel turned the tide back in Whitworth's favor in the fifth when she drilled her fourth homer of the season, driving in Hayes and Myranda Ramirez ahead of her.
The Bucs added one more in the sixth. Ramirez drew a two-out walk and scored on Hayes' double to right-center field.
Swiger reached on an error with one out in the bottom of the seventh as Linfield hoped to copy Whitworth's final-inning, four-run rally from Saturday. But Lefever induced a ground out and got Fletcher to foul out at third base to end the game.
Wessel finished with four RBIs while Portlock went 2-3 with three runs-batted-in. Swiger went 3-4 for Linfield with a pair of runs scored.
Shelby Saylors started in the circle for the Wildcats and fell to 14-4 after allowing nine runs (six earned) on 11 hits in 6.0 innings.
Game 2 – Linfield 19, Whitworth 0 (5 innings)
The Wildcats hit four home runs, including Fletcher's grand slam in an 11-run second frame, to claim the series finale in run-away fashion.
Linfield scored four in the first, 11 in the second and four more in the third. The Wildcats pounded three home runs in the second inning. Erin Tauscher had a two-run shot and Duman made it back-to-back with a solo homer. Later in the second Fletcher hit her grand slam to center field.
Melanie Oord added a three-run homer in the third inning.
Whitworth was limited to only four hits by Wildcat starting pitcher Brynn Lio, who improved to 1-4 with four innings of work. Brooke Chapman finished up with the fifth inning.
Fletcher and Oord each finished with three hits and five RBIs, while Tauscher went 3-3 with four RBIs.
Ashley Trueblood started in the circle and dropped to 1-1 after allowing 13 runs on 14 hits in 1.2 innings. Nikki Olsen pitched 1.0 innings and gave up six runs on six hits. Kymber Devlin finished the final 1.1 innings and did not allow a run and only one hit.