SALEM, Va. — Stacey Hagensen gave herself the perfect birthday present, and her Pacific Lutheran teammates gift-wrapped eight-run offensive support as the Lutes beat Luther, 8-0, on Friday afternoon in an opening round game at the NCAA Division III Softball Championships at Moyer Complex.
With the victory, the Lutes, 42-11 this season, advance to a winner’s bracket game against none other than Northwest Conference rival Linfield on Saturday. The Wildcats, 43-5, won their opener by a 9-5 score against Ohio Northern.
Hagensen, who turned 22 today, allowed only two hits as the Lutes beat the Norse in a run rule-shortened five-inning game. Hagensen, named a National Fastpitch Coaches Association second team All-American on Friday night, improved her season record to 25-5. She struck out two and walked one and allowed only three baserunners in the game. Using her drop ball to great effectiveness, she recorded 11 outs on ground balls.
“Get the ball to Stacey Hagensen and as usual good things happen,” PLU head coach Erin Van Nostrand said of her senior right-hander.
Facing Luther first team All-American pitcher Becca Girvan, the Lutes stranded three runners in scoring position in the first two innings before finally breaking through with three runs in the third inning.
Glenelle Nitta, who reached base three times, was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Hagensen followed with her second consecutive single, and after Kaaren Hatlen popped out, Amanda Hall was hit by a pitch. Girvan coaxed a pop up from Katie Lowery, and for the third time in as many innings she was on the verge of escaping a jam. Instead, the Lutes came up with two consecutive big hits.
First, Lindsey Matsunaga drilled a double to the base of the fence in left field, driving in Nitta and Hagensen and putting runners on second and third. Haley Harshaw followed with a single through the left side of the infield, driving in two more runs and giving the Lutes a 4-0 lead.
In the meantime, Hagensen wriggled out of a jam in the second when Luther got two runners on base on a single and error. With two outs, Hagensen got a ground out from Elisa Smith to end the threat. Through the first three innings, all of Hagensen’s outs came via Luther batters pounding the ball into the ground.
Leading 4-0 entering the top of the fifth, Pacific Lutheran scored four runs and knocked the Girvan, the first team All-American, from the game.
Hatlen walked and was replaced by pinch runner Spencer Sherwin, who moved up to second on Amanda Hall’s sacrifice bunt. Sherwin then stole third, though the call by umpire Dom Baumgart brought Luther head coach Renae Hartl from the dugout to argue his decision.
On the next pitch, Katie Lowery put down a squeeze bunt to score the sliding Sherwin with PLU’s fifth run. Lowery reached base on the throw to the plate, and she soon found herself on third base after consecutive singles by Matsunaga and Harshaw. Amanda Goings drew a full-count walk to score the second run of the frame, and Montessa Califano drove in another to make it 7-0 with a fielder’s choice grounder to shortstop. After Nitta was hit by a pitch for the second time, Hagensen drew another walk to score the final run.
Girvan was replaced in the pitcher’s circle by Kelsey Rose, who finally ended the PLU rally by getting the final out.
Luther pinch hitter Alisa Miller hit a two-out double to get a Norse runner as far as second base for only the second time, but a ground out to Nitta ended the contest.
Matsunaga, an all-conference sophomore who has seen her batting average drop to .254 in recent weeks, broke out with three hits, two runs scored and two runs batted in. “I’ve been struggling for awhile, so it’s nice to back on it, especially here.”
Hagensen helped her own cause with two hits, a run scored and a run batted in, and Harshaw had a big game with two hits, two RBI and a run scored. Nitta had a single and was hit twice by Girvan.
“We played really well,” Van Nostrand said, though noting the early scoring opportunities that came up wanting. “Our conference is really good and we had to go through a tough regional, so we felt pretty good coming in.”
Now it will be time for the players to fete Hagensen on her birthday before turning their attention to the Linfield Wildcats, whom they have beaten in four of the seven games that the conference foes have played this season.