Pacific Lutheran shuts out Linfield
Lutes drop top-ranked Wildcats to capture Northwest title
McMINNVILLE, Ore. -- Not giving the NCAA selection committee an opportunity to deal out heartbreak as it did a year ago, Pacific Lutheran won the Northwest Conference tournament title on Sunday and with it the NWC's automatic berth into the national tournament.
Senior Stacey Hagensen shut down the tournament host and No. 1 Linfield, limiting the prolific offensive machine to just two hits in a 3-0 victory. Earlier in the afternoon, Linfield had rallied for three runs in its final at bat to beat the Lutes 3-2 and earn another shot at the fifth-ranked Lutes. Hagensen, the NWC Pitcher of the Year in 2011, made sure that her teammates and their fans would get to celebrate a national tournament berth.
The Lutes scored two runs in the first inning against surprise Linfield starter Shelby VandeBergh, the Wildcats' No. 3 pitcher who earlier this year did defeat PLU in Parkland. Glenelle Nitta reached first base on a Linfield error, the team's bugaboo throughout the tournament, and Hagensen and Kaaren Hatlen followed with singles with Nitta scoring on Hatlen's hit. Katie Lowery drove in Hagensen when she grounded out to short.
As it turned out, Hagensen and Lutes needed only one of those runs. Not taking any chances, PLU added the game's final tally on Amanda Hall's fourth homer of the season in the fourth inning.
Hagensen retired Linfield in order in four of the first six innings and took her shutout in the seventh when the 'Cats got a one-out single and a walk, which was the first free pass allowed by the PLU senior in 51 innings. With Linfield looking at two opportunities to tie the game with a swing of the bat, Hagensen instead closed it out with a pop up and fly out.