SALEM, Va. — Putting up 14 hits but surrendering a season-high 13, Linfield scratched out a far-from-perfect 9-5 victory against Ohio Northern on Friday in an opening round game at the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Karleigh Prestianni paced the Linfield offense with three hits, Emilee Lepp swatted a double and home run and Haylie Watson drove in three runs for the defending national champion Wildcats.
Highlighted by a triple from Katy Brosig in the second inning, the Wildcats took a 4-0 lead, cashing in four hits, two errors and a couple of walks.
ONU picked up a run in the third on Cassie Gaye’s ground-out single that scored Christin Miller, who reached base with a single, then was moved to third on a double by Kelly Sheridan.
Wildcats’ starter Lauren Harvey gave up a single and allowed another runner on board with a hit-by-pitch in the bottom of the fourth, resulting in Greg Herman reaching for the bullpen early. Karina Paavola came on in relief, getting out of the inning unscathed and setting up another big scoring inning for the Wildcats.
Emilee Lepp led off a four-run burst with her 15th home run of the season, a solo shot to center field. Prestianni singled and Watson followed with a single down the left-field line to score a pair of runs. A RBI single to the same spot by Jordan Mixsell made it 8-1 in favor of the ‘Cats.
Four Linfield pitchers cycled through the game, necessitated by a series of four errors and two hit batters that kept Ohio Northern within reach. All told, Harvey, Paavola, Montana McNealy and Shelby VandeBergh struck out nine Polar Bears without yielding a single walk. Paavola (23-2) earned the victory, tossing two scoreless inning with a couple of strikeouts.
The Polar Bears were their own worst enemy at times, hampered by five errors and 12 stranded runners.
Christin Miller went 3-for-5, Ashley Sujkowski was 3-for-3 to lead the Ohio Athletic Conference champions at the plate. Abbey Bensing absorbed the loss to fall to 12-7.
Also contributing two hits for Linfield were Brosig, Watson and Grace Middelstadt.