McMinnville, Ore. – The Whitworth softball team moved into the winner's bracket of the Northwest Conference Tournament with an 11-2 win in five innings over the defending NCAA Division III national champion Pacific Lutheran University. The Pirates scored in four of the five innings in the game.
After Whitworth's first three batters were walked, senior Heather Hesselgesser hit a double to center field that scored juniors Makenzie Hope and Caylan Haehl and gave the Bucs an early 2-0 lead. Freshman Megan John followed Hesselgesser with a single to center field that scored senior Jamie Brunner and then Hesselgesser scored on a sacrifice fly from junior Julia Johnson to give the Pirates an early 4-0 lead. PLU got a run back in the bottom of the inning on a Whitworth error.
The Whitworth bats stayed hot in the top of the second as the first two batters connected on pitches for singles. Junior Hanna Boyd and Makenzie Hope both scored in the inning to push Whitworth's lead to 6-1. The Bucs followed a third inning that saw them go down in order with a four-run fourth inning.
Caylan Haehl stepped in the box with one out, hit a single to third base and then stole second, putting her in scoring position for Jamie Brunner. Brunner brought Haehl home with a single to center field. With runners on first and second and two outs, Julia Johnson connected with her sixth home run of the season to give Whitworth a 10-1 lead.
The Lutes used two hits in the bottom of the fourth to score a run and pull within 10-2, but Whitworth scored its 11th run of the game Brunner was walked with bases loaded in the top of the fifth, bringing Hanna Boyd across home plate.
Sophomore Riley Fritz earned the win in the circle, pitching all five innings. She struck out three of the 23 batters she faced and allowed seven hits and one earned run. Kaaren Hatlen took the loss, giving up three runs to the three batters she faced.
Three Pirates had a multi-hit game, as Makenzie Hope went 2-for-3 and Heather Hesselgesser and Megan John both went 2-for-4. Hesselgesser and Jamie Brunner each batted in three runs, while Julia Johnson had a game-high four RBI.
The Pirates will face national-ranked Linfield College, the host of the 2013 NWC Tournament, at 6:30 pm on Saturday.