by Brandon Loiler, Sports Information Assistant
SPOKANE, Wash. - The Whitworth softball team sealed its first ever Northwest Conference Tournament title and a trip to the 2017 NCAA Division III National Tournament with a 3-2 win over Pacific Lutheran in a winner take all game seven. In game six of the NWC tournament, the Lutes exploded for a 13-2 win in six innings, forcing game seven, but Whitworth's ace Madi Perez responded, leading the Bucs to a 3-2 win.
Whitworth will enter the NCAA tournament with a record of 35-8. The Pirates will find out who they play and where on Monday, May 8.
Game One: Pacific Lutheran 13, Whitworth 2 (6 Innings)
Pacific Lutheran (22-16) scored 10 runs over the fourth, fifth, and sixth inning to hand the Bucs their first NWC tournament loss. The Lutes batted .454 with 15 hits and five walks, Anna Overland went 2-4 with four RBIs to lead visitor's offense.
The Lutes took an early lead in the top of the second, scoring three. To get on the board, Wallace grounded out to second with no outs, allowing teammate Nichole Schroeder to advance home. Then after a walk and a steal, putting runners on the corners, King singled up the middle, scoring another. Whitworth pitcher Madi Perez walked another batter and loaded the bases with one out. Samantha Simundson hit a sac fly to left field, scoring the final Lute run of the inning.
In the bottom of the third inning with runners on first and second and one out, Myranda Ramirez hit a two RBI double down the left field line, scoring Logan Miller and Kinsey McNaught to cut the Lutes' lead to one (3-2). Wessel advanced Ramirez to third on a bunt and stole second to put two runners in scoring position for Tessa Matthews, but a routine fly ball to left field left them stranded.
Megan Truesdale took over for Ashley Trueblood in the circle for the Pirates in the top of the fifth and after retiring the first batter on a groundout, Pacific Lutheran loaded the bases with two walks and a single. McConnell hit a hard ground ball to Whitworth second-basemen Desi Graham who fired it home to save a run. Overland responded with a long double to the left field fence, clearing the bases for Pacific Lutheran to go up 9-2.
In the sixth inning, Corina Jones drove in two more on a double to the left field fence, giving the Lutes a 10-run lead. The Pirates got their first two batters on base on a walk and a single, but three consecutive outs sealed the win for PLU, forcing a winner take all game seven.
In addition to Overland, Jones (1-1), King (2-2), and Simundson (1-3) added two RBIs apiece for Pacific Lutheran. King and McConnell each crossed the plate three times. For Whitworth, Ramirez went 1-3 with both RBIs on a double in the third inning.
Ellie Rassbach (13-6) pitched five innings, walked three, and struck out two for the Lutes. Perez (22-4) gave up three runs in the first two innings, picking up her fourth loss of the season.
Game Two: Whitworth 3, Pacific Lutheran 2
Whitworth put up three runs and held on despite putting three runners in scoring position in the top of the seventh to become the 2017 Northwest Conference Softball Tournament champions.
Silva singled to start the second inning for Whitworth, advancing to second on a Matthews groundout to third. Perez flew out and with two down, Lewis singled to right center, scoring Silva to give the Pirates an early 1-0 lead.
In the fourth inning, Simundson hit double off of the fence in right center, advancing to third on a grounder on the next at bat. Schroeder brought her home, reaching on a fielder's choice to tie the game up at 1-1 before heading to the bottom of the inning on a groundout to Perez. With one down in the bottom of the inning, Matthews singled, advanced to second on the throw, putting her and Silva in scoring position for Perez. Perez stepped up and hit a looper into shallow center, scoring Silva to give Whitworth a one run advantage at 2-1. Lewis added to the lead with a sac bunt, scoring Matthews who beat the throw to home plate. Miller laid down a bunt, advancing Lewis and Smith (pinch running for Perez) to second and third, but the Lutes retired Kelsey Downey with a caught pop fly to shallow center.
Wallace started the Lutes out with a double that landed just fair down the left field line. She advanced to third on sacrifice from King. McConnell then stepped up and hit an RBI single just over the head of Silva, driving in Wallace to cut the lead to one.
Pacific Lutheran's Becca Sorenson singled to start the top of the seventh. She found her way to third on a sacrifice and a McConnell single. McConnell stole second, putting the go ahead run in scoring position, but Tessa Matthews fired a ground ball from Simundson home to send the potential tying run back to the dugout. A line drive straight to the glove of Lewis gave the Pirates their first ever Northwest Conference Tournament Championship title and an automatic bid to the 2017 NCAA National Regionals.
Lewis (1-2) led the Pirate offense, driving in two runs and Michelle Silva (2-3) scored twice. For Pacific Lutheran, McConnell went 3-4 with an RBI.
Perez threw her 19th complete game, improving to 23-4. She gave up six hits and recorded two strikeouts. Elli Rassbach (13-7) gave up eight hits, a walk, and struck out one for the Lutes.