May 21, 2010

By Dan Myers
Special to

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. -- It was a record setting -- and record extending -- power day for the Linfield softball team.

With her home run to lead off the top of the fourth inning, Wildcats first baseman Staci Doucette broke the school record for career home runs. It also sparked her team's offense, getting Linfield on the board en route to a come from behind 4-3 win over Luther in the second NCAA Division III softball quarterfinal contest Friday at Carson Park.

With the Wildcats trailing, 3-0, Doucette hit a solo home run over the left centerfield wall for her 19th homer of the season and 32nd of her career, breaking the old record of 31 set by Amanda Attleberger (2005-08).

"I'm lucky to have a lot of protection behind me," Doucette said. "With Karleigh (Prestianni) behind me, it gives me an opportunity to see a lot of good pitches."

But Prestianni is no stranger to home runs either. She led off the sixth inning with a solo blast of her own, this one down the left-field line, pulling the Wildcats within one at 3-2.

It was a sign of things to come.

Following an Alex Hartmann single to center, Jaydee Baxter followed with a high drive over the left field fence to give Linfield its first lead of the day at 4-3.

It was a lead they wouldn't relinquish, as pitcher Claire Velaski pitched five strong innings in relief of Lauren Harvey, who left the game in the third inning after surrendering a three-run homer to Luther's Lauran [CQ ] Snyder.

"When they went up 3-0, our team didn't panic," said Wildcats coach Jackson Vaughan. "Our kids battled real hard, made (Luther pitcher Kim Lambert) throw a lot of pitches and we were able to take advantage of some pitches she left over the plate."

The home runs were the 74th, 75th and 76th of the season for Linfield, extending their NCAA record.

Harvey started the game for Linfield, surrendering three runs over two innings, walking three and striking out none. Velaski was outstanding the rest of the way, walking just one over five innings while fanning five. She allowed just two hits.

"We've come from behind before," Velaski said. "I just tried to relax, pretend the game was 0-0 and play my game."

"We have peaked at the right time of year hitting wise," Vaughan said. "Our pitchers have done a great job all year but for the most part, we have been an offensive oriented ball club."

Lexy Determan started the game for Luther, pitching 2 1/3 innings of scoreless ball, allowing one hit and striking out two. Lambert allowed four runs, all earned, walked one and struck out two over 4 2/3 innings. She allowed six hits.

Luther grabbed the early lead on Snyder's homer over the centerfield wall. She was one of just four Norse with a hit in the game. Anna Simonson had two hits for Luther.

"We really haven't been in very many games like that," said Norse coach Renae Hartl. "I thought both teams played well. It was a pitcher's duel there for awhile, but then, obviously, the sticks came out for both teams. It's really incredible to be in this game, on that stage, against that kind of competition."

Emilee Lepp had two hits for Linfield. The Wildcats also played a clean game in the field, making no errors. Luther had two errors.

Linfield will play DePauw in the winner's bracket tomorrow afternoon at 4 p.m. Luther enters the elimination bracket and will face Ithaca in Saturday's opening game at 11 a.m.