by Andrew Goodwin, Sports Information Assistant
SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth Pirates bring their eight-game win streak into a potentially season-deciding week with a pair of makeup games at George Fox and a full home series against Linfield, two teams currently tied for first in the Northwest Conference.
The Bucs take on the Bruins at 10:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 28 and play two doubleheaders against the Wildcats on March 30-31. Both doubleheaders against Linfield will open at 12:00 p.m. with nightcaps starting at 2:30 p.m.
Fans can follow the team using video and live statistics links on the Whitworth softball schedule.
The Pirates: Whitworth (16-8, 9-3 NWC) enters the week on an eight-game win streak after sweeping the only two games it was able to play this weekend. Saturday's games were canceled due to snow and afternoon rain, but the Bucs made the most of the games they were able to play with two 8-0 victories on Sunday. Madelyn Carlson tossed a pair of shutouts and earned NWC Student-Athlete of the Week honors, while Chelsey Hayes and Kinsey McNaught led Whitworth offensively. Hayes went 3-6 with 5 RBIs between the two games, while McNaught was 5-6 with 5 runs and 3 RBIs.
Crafty Carlson: Halfway through her freshman season, Madelyn Carlson has established herself as one of the best pitchers in the Northwest Conference. Carlson leads the nation in shutouts with six and leads the conference in ERA (1.54). She also ranks second in the NWC in strikeouts (54).
Making Hay(es): After taking a year off from softball to focus on her Nursing degree, Chelsey Hayes is taking advantage fof another opportunity to play for the Bucs. The junior first baseman ranks fifth in the conference with a .427 batting average and is 24th in the country with 35 hits.
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). This season, Silva is again one of the best hitters in the Whitworth lineup, batting .404 and slugging .712. The junior third baseman also leads the Bucs with 11 extra base hits.
A Walk in the Park: Sara Gayer makes getting on base looks easy. The freshman shortstop is eighth in the NWC in walks (10), which has helped her pile up the seventh-best on-base percentage (.508) in the conference as well.
It's Going Down(ey): Kelsey Downey has been one of Whitworth's most reliable hitters all season. The senior is second on the team in batting average (.404), third in on-base percentage (.436), and fourth in slugging percentage (.519).
Center of Attention: After being named the inaugural Northwest Conference Freshman of the Year, Kinsey McNaught switched positions from right field to center. Last season, McNaught finished with a .983 fielding percentage in right field, totaling 52 putouts and 6 assists. Despite the transition, she has been just as good this season, totaling up 30 putouts and 4 assists with a .971 fielding percentage.
Triple the Fun: Whitworth's offense has been aided by an excess of three-base hits this season. The Bucs lead the NWC in triples with eight three-base hits from seven players.
The Opponents: George Fox (21-5, 12-2 NWC) also enters its doubleheader with the Bucs on an eight-game win streak. The Bruins most recently took down Pacific (Ore.) and Lewis & Clark in two four-game series to remain tied with Linfield for first place in the NWC. Madison Sorenson has keyed the Bruins' success this season with a 1.74 ERA (2nd in NWC) and 85 strikeouts (1st in NWC). George Fox also has a dangerous offense, leading the NWC in home runs (40), runs (115), and slugging percentage (.563). Allison Meyer leads the Bruins and the NWC with 10 round trippers, while Annie Veatch and Roni Braun both bring 7 home runs into the weekend. When the Bucs and Bruins squared off earlier in the season, George Fox won both games by scores of 7-0 and 5-0.
Linfield (20-6, 12-2 NWC) has won seven straight games coming in to this week with two more games to play against PLU before traveling to Spokane. Most recently, the Wildcats swept Willamette and took two games from the Lutes in a rain-shortened series. Eliza Rossman has been Linfield's best pitcher this season, posting a 2.17 ERA with 53 strikouts, both of which are top-five marks in the NWC. At the plate, the Wildcats lead the NWC with a .358 batting average and .434 on-base percentage as a team. Emily Allen powers those marks with an NWC-best .500 batting average. Last year, Whitworth and Linfield split four games in McMinnville. Linfield won the first game of both doubleheaders while Whitworth took both nightcaps.
Looking Ahead: Whitworth continues its homestand with a four-game series against Lewis & Clark on April 7-8.
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 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 Bruner.