SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth University softball team faces its toughest test of the season so far when the Pirates visit 10th-ranked Linfield College in a four-game Northwest Conference series this weekend. The teams will play doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday, beginning at noon each day.
Watch the Pirates' softball schedule for live links to this weekend's games.
The Pirates: Whitworth is 20-5 overall and 14-1 in the NWC after taking three out of four games at Pacific Lutheran University last weekend.
Whitworth dropped the opener at PLU 3-1 when the bats would not wake up. PLU pitcher Kennedy Robillard limited the Pirates to a single run on five hits. Meanwhile the Lutes took advantage of a first inning error to score two unearned runs against Whitworth starting pitcher Madelyn Carlson.
Pirate bats finally woke up in a 7-2 victory in Saturday's second game. Whitworth pushed five runs across in the seventh inning, including a two-run homer by Michelle Silva. Silva also tripled and scored in the fourth inning to get the Bucs on the board. Whitworth had six doubles to back a solid effort from Drea Schwaier-Wolf, who improved to 11-1 with a two-hit, complete game.
Sunday's first game was an 8-0, five-inning victory for the Pirates against the same pitcher who shut them down on Saturday. Whitworth scored in each of the first four innings against Robillard, including a four-run second. Kinsey McNaught led the way with four RBIs while Kaylie Lowery scored three times. Carlson tossed a one-hit shutout to improve to 8-4.
Whitworth rallied from an early 4-1 deficit to win the series finale 6-5. The Pirates scored two in the fourth and three more in the fifth. Sara Gayer doubled, tripled and drove in three runs. Kylie Harris and Carlson threw 4.1 innings of hitless relief in support of Schwaier-Wolf, who allowed four runs on four hits in 2.2 innings. Carlson picked up her first save with three innings of work.
The Opponents: Tenth-ranked Linfield (22-4-1 overall, 15-1 NWC) has won eight straight games. The Wildcats are coming off a four-game sweep at Willamette last weekend, including three by the NCAA run rule. Linfield leads the conference in runs, hits, home runs (38) and team batting average (.372). The Wildcats are also second in the league in team ERA. Senior Darian Stedman, who was a second team All-NWC selection in 2018, leads the league with 35 RBIs. She has a .433 batting average and seven home runs. Junior shortstop Makenna Clizer, a first team honoree in 2017, hits .388 with 31 RBIs. Senior pitcher Shelby Saylors is 11-3 with a 3.22 ERA. The 2018 All-NWC first teamer leads the NWC in strikeouts (73) by a wide margin.
Whitworth and Linfield have been very competitive over the last four seasons. The teams split their four-game series from 2015 through 2017 before the Wildcats took three of four in Spokane last season.
Excelling in All Areas: Whitworth ranks at the top of the NWC statistics in all three key areas of the game. The Pirates lead the league in team earned run average (2.05) and in opponents' batting average (.213). Offensively Whitworth is third in team batting average (.341) and leads the NWC in stolen bases (70). Finally, the Bucs are tied for the lead in the conference in team fielding percentage (.970).
NWC Leaders: Whitworth's pitching pair of Drea Schwaier-Wolf and Madelyn Carlson are a big reason the Pirates lead the league in team ERA (2.05). Schwaier-Wolf leads the NWC in wins (11), ranks second in ERA (2.00) and second in strikeouts (50). Carlson now leads the NWC in ERA (1.65), ranks fourth in wins (8) and fourth in strikeouts (43).
Show Me the Way to Go Home: Because of the heavy snows that hit eastern Washington in February and March, Whitworth had to play its first 20 games away from Diana Marks Field. A series with George Fox (March 2-3) and a series with Puget Sound (March 16-17) were moved to the opponents' field. Whitworth's first home games were March 24th when the Pirates hosted DePauw University.
Slammin' Silva: Michelle Silva is closing out one of the best careers in school history. The two-time first team honoree has a .359 career average as a Pirate. She has driven in 118 runs in 153 games with 37 doubles, nine triples and 19 home runs. Her career slugging average is .606.
The Coach: Cristal Brown is in her eighth season leading the Whitworth softball team. She has posted a record of 190-113 through her first seven years with three NWC titles to her credit (2015, 2016, 2017). Brown has coached 30 players to All-Northwest Conference recognition.