May 24, 2010

By Dan Myers
Special to

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. -- Linfield is no stranger to the big inning. It is, however, not known for its ability to manufacture runs.

Monday at Carson Park, the Wildcats did both in a 10-1, five-inning victory over Eastern Connecticut State, eliminating the Warriors (39-6-1) and earning a rematch with East Texas Baptist Monday afternoon, this time with the national championship on the line.

If East Texas Baptist (39-12) wins the afternoon game, it will win the national championship. If Linfield (42-6) wins, the two teams will play a rematch on Tuesday to determine the champion.

Linfield got on the board early, stringing together a single followed by a pair of walks to load the bases with two outs in the bottom of the first inning. Jaydee Baxter came through with a bloop single to left, scoring two, to make it 2-0.

The Wildcats opened up a bigger lead in the third, playing more small ball in creating three more runs and going up 5-0. With runners on first and second with nobody out, Emily Keagbine ripped a single to left. The throw to the plate beat Jordan Mixsell, but her slide around the catcher allowed her to score to make it 3-0. Keagbine advanced to second on the play.

Baxter followed with a successful suicide squeeze that got another run across to make it 4-0. With nobody covering the base, Baxter advanced to second without a throw, putting runners on second and third with nobody out.

That was the end of the line for Molly Rathbun on the mound, as she allowed five runs, three of them earned, in two innings of work.

After Kassondra Silva replaced Rathbun,, a big diving catch by Katie Dinihanian in left prevented further damage, if only temporarily. A bunt by Sami Kiem was popped up to first, but was misplayed and fell to the ground. The out was recorded at first, but the error allowed Keagbine to score and make it 5-0. The error was big, because Keagbine would have been doubled off third base rather easily, an out which would have ended the inning.

ECSU got on the board in the fourth inning when Priscilla Alicea blasted a solo home run over the right field wall to make it 5-1. Eastern put runners on first and second with one out and loaded the bases with two outs, but Linfield pitcher Claire Velaski worked out of trouble to keep the score 5-1.

The Wildcats got that run back and more in the bottom of the inning. A double down the left field line by Emilee Lepp put runners at second and third and an intentional walk to Staci Doucette loaded the bases. A fielders choice cut down one runner at the plate but a sharp single to right by Keagbine made it 6-1. Hartmann walked two batters later to push the lead to 7-1 and Keim followed with a two-run single to make it 9-1. Kayla Hubrich added an RBI single before the end of the threat and by the time the inning was over, it was 10-1.

Velaski earned the victory, tossing five innings and allowing just one run on five hits to improve to 20-3. Rathbun took the loss, just the second of her sterling season, dropping to 30-2.