Pirates Travel South for Leadoff Classic

Pirates Travel South for Leadoff Classic

by Andrew Goodwin, Sports Information Assistant 

SPOKANE, Wash. – After opening Northwest Conference play last weekend, Whitworth softball finishes out non-conference play this weekend at the Leadoff Classic in Tuscon, Ariz. 

The Pirates take on six opponents in the classic, including two teams ranked in the top-25 by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) and four NCAA tournament squads from last season.

Fans can find specific game times on the Whitworth softball schedule and keep up with the team using live links on the Leadoff Classic's Tournament Central page.

The Pirates: The Northwest Conference season is off to a rocky start for Whitworth (3-5, 3-3 NWC). The Bucs stumbled in the first doubleheader of NWC play, losing 7-0 and 5-0 to George Fox. The final two games of the series have been postponed to a later date due to inclimate weather. 

Winner, Winner: Madelyn Carlson emerged victorious from each of her first three starts as a Pirate. Her three wins put Carlson second in the NWC. She also sits in third in the conference in strikeouts with 17 and fifth in ERA with a 2.21 mark.

Super Silva: Michelle Silva earned First Team All-NWC honors last season by leading the team in home runs (7), RBIs (42), and stolen bases (17). She also batted .374 from the cleanup spot. 

Center of Attention: After being named the inaugural Northwest Conference Freshman of the Year, Kinsey McNaught is moving from right field to center. Last season, McNaught finished with a .983 fielding percentage in right field, totaling 52 putouts and 6 assists. She also contributed a .381 batting average with 32 runs scored as the leadoff hitter. 

Fantastic Freshmen: Sara Gayer and Madelyn Carlson were the 2018 season's first Northwest Conference Student-Athletes of the Week. Carlson finished the week with a 1.09 ERA in four appearances, and Gayer batted .615 with three extra base hits. 

The Opponents: Moravian will be opening its season when it squares off with the Bucs on Friday. The Hounds are currently ranked 18th in the NFCA's Top-25 poll and return a pair of All-Americans, catcher Janae Matos (1st Team) and pitcher Josie Novak (2nd Team). They finished 2017 with a 36-6 record. 

William Paterson also begins its season at the Leadoff Classic. The Pioneers made the NCAA Tournament last season, but fell in both of its games to finish the year 28-13. 

Birmingham Southern (6-3, 2-1 Southern Athletic Conference) finished 22-18 last season. The Panthers return third team All-Americans in first baseman Savannah Lee and designated player. Haley Crumpton.

Wittenburg starts its year in Tuscon after ending 2017 with a 29-7 record. The Tigers' season ended last season dropping consecutive games in the North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament after posting an impressive 15-1 conference record during the regular season. 

Coe (1-1) made the NCAA Tournament last year after securing a 29-9 record during the regular season. The Kohawks won a pair of games in their regional, but dropped both of their matchups with the University of St. Thomas, which bounced them from the tournament. 

Central (Iowa) earned a no. 22 pre-season ranking from the NFCA after making the NCAA Tournament with a 32-8 record last season. The Dutch were placed in the same regional as Coe and fell in both of their postseason games in 2017. 

Looking Ahead: After returning from Arizona, the Bucs travel to Puget Sound March 10-11. 

The Coach: Over her first six years as head coach of the Pirates, Cristal Brown has turned Whitworth into a perennial Northwest Conference championship contender. Through her first six years Brown has compiled a 166-95 record with three NWC regular season championships (2015-17), one NWC tournament title (2017), and two appearances in the NCAA Division III tournament (2016-17). Brown is also a two-time NWC Coach of the Year (2016-17). She is assisted by Associate Head Coach Randy Clark and Assistant Coaches Bob Castle and Jamie Brunner.