SALEM, Va. – Amanda Hall drove a one-out single through the middle of the infield in the bottom of the 12th inning Sunday to give Pacific Lutheran a 2-1 victory against Montclair State and with it a berth in the NCAA Division III Softball Championship game on Monday.
The Lutes, 44-11 this season, will face one of three teams — Northwest Conference rival and defending national champion Linfield, Roanoke or Montclair State — battling through elimination games later Sunday and Monday.
|Amanda Hall’s three-run homer in the sixth inning proved to be the game-winning hit as Pacific Lutheran rallied past Linfield — the defending national champions — to advance to the winner’s bracket final.|
|Complete story, click here|
PLU head coach Erin Van Nostrand brought Hall here to protect All-American Kaaren Hatlen in the lineup, telling Hall that she would help get the Lutes to the national tournament. That has happened, and now Hall has helped get her team within a win of a championship.
Hall was the hitting hero for the second consecutive game. Saturday, she hit a three-run homer in the sixth that put the Lutes ahead in what turned out to be a 5-3 victory against Linfield. Sunday, with the bases loaded, she took a 1-1 pitch from Montclair State hard-luck loser and first team All-American Alex Hill right back up the middle, driving in Montessa Califano with the winning run.
“I had been successful my last few at bats,” Hall said. “I was looking for something I could hit up the middle or the other way.”
The hit made a winner of Pacific Lutheran’s own All-American, Stacey Hagensen, who improved her record to 26-6. Hagensen, a senior right-hander, limited the Red Hawks to just four hits while striking out eight and walking no one in the complete-game performance.
The 12-inning performance by Hagensen was the longest of her career, topping 11 innings of shutout ball against Willamette in a 1-0 PLU win earlier this season.
Hagensen made only one mistake pitch all game long, and Dana Amato turned it around for her 10th home run of the season in the fourth inning. Amato had a bloop double in the ninth inning and finished 2-for-5 in the game.
Pacific Lutheran scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the third inning when Lindsey Matsunaga drew a leadoff walk, moved up a base on Haley Harshaw’s sacrifice bunt, and then scored on a single by Califano past diving shortstop Priscilla Camacho.
After Amato’s home run tied the game, the Lutes squandered numerous opportunities against Hill, who finished the game giving up 10 hits and four walks while striking out nine PLU batters. Pacific Lutheran left a total of 11 runners on base, eight of them in scoring position, before Hall finally came up with the big hit.
“Their pitcher was really, really good,” Van Nostrand said. “She’s tough, but we found a way to get it done.”
The bottom of the 12th inning started with Califano getting her third hit of the game by beating out an infield single to second base. She then stole second base, her fourth steal of the game, and advanced to third base when Glenelle Nitta’s sacrifice bunt was thrown low to first base. Hagensen, who had two hits, was walked intentionally to load the bases with no outs.
Hill struck out pinch hitter Ami Gran, bringing Hall to the plate, and the junior transfer out of Kennewick by way of Columbia Basin College provided the key hit for the second straight contest.
Four players accounted for PLU’s 10 hits. Califano was 3-for-4 with a run and RBI, Hall was 3-for-6 with a RBI, Hagensen was 2-for-5, and Harshaw was 2-for-4.