by Brandon Loiler, Sports Information Assistant
McMINNVILLE, Ore. - Whitworth clinched its third straight Northwest Conference softball championship by defeating 16th-ranked Linfield 6-3 in the finale of a four-game series on Saturday afternoon to split the day's doubleheader. The Wildcats won the opener 7-2.
Whitworth (32-8) edged Linfield (32-8, 21-7) for the NWC regular season crown with a 23-5 NWC record. It is the third in a row for the Bucs after the 'Cats had claimed 11 straight NWC crowns.
Michelle Silva had a three-run double to key the first inning four-run rally in the second game and Madi Perez bounced back from a loss in the opener to throw a complete-game victory in the nightcap and improve to 20-4 in the circle this season.
Game One: Linfield 7, Whitworth 2
The Wildcats drove in six runs in the sixth inning to take game one. Linfield pitcher Shelby Saylors improved to 16-3 after giving up four hits in a complete game.
Melanie Oord hit a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring one, to give the Wildcats an early advantage.
A two-out, two-run home run by Rheanne Lewis in the second inning put the Pirates up 2-1.
In the bottom of the sixth inning with two on, Oord singled to the pitcher and scoring one to tie the game up at 2-2. Erin Kinney batted in two more on the next at bat with a single to left field and Allen followed that up with an RBI single, scoring Kinney. Kenzie Schmoll finished Linfield's six-run inning with a two RBI double for the final scores of the game.
Kinney (2-4) and Oord (1-3) had two RBIs apiece to lead the Wildcats.
Perez (19-3) threw five innings and allowed nine hits before being replaced by Sarah Ballinger. Linfield's Saylors gave up four hits, one walk, and had two strikeouts.
Game Two: Whitworth 6, Linfield 3
Silva started the Pirates off with a three RBI double in the bottom of the first inning and Perez added a sac fly to put Whitworth up 4-0 early on the way to a win in game two.
Shannon Wessel's doube in the bottom of the second scored Smith (unearned) and McNaught (earned) to increase Whitworth's lead to 6-0.
Linfield attempted a comeback in the third, scoring three runs on two singles and a fielder's choice to cut the Pirates' lead to three. The Whitworth defense left six more Wildcat runners stranded over the next four innings to hold off the Wildcats and finish the four-game series.
Silva went 3-4 with three RBIs and a run to lead Whitworth. Wessel (2-4) added two more RBIs. Cheyenne Fletcher and Oord both went 1-4 with an RBI to Linfield.
Perez earned her 20th win of the season, walking only one batter and recording a strikeout. For the Wildcats, Saylors (16-4) gave up six runs in two innings before being replaced in the third, recording the loss.
Next Up: The Pirates will face George Fox at home in the first round of the Northeast Conference softball tournament on Friday, April 21 at noon.