McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Linfield earned a spot in the postseason for the eighth consecutive year after winning the inaugural Northwest Conference Softball Tournament with an 11-6 win against Pacific Lutheran on Saturday afternoon at the Linfield Softball Diamond.

The No. 1 Wildcats, who entered the tournament as the top seed after winning the regular-season title, receives the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championship.

Linfield (41-2) came out swinging, opening up a 4-0 lead after just one inning. The highlight of the first frame was a two-run homer by Karleigh Prestianni.

The Lutes (31-13) scored one run apiece in the next two innings before Linfield exploded for another three runs in the bottom of the third. Emilee Lepp hit a solo home run, her 27th roundtripper of the year, to lead the surge. Teammates Prestianni and Alex Hartmann drove in an RBI each to extend the lead to 7-2.

Pacific Lutheran trimmed the deficit to three runs in the top of the fourth when Amanda Goings hit a single up the middle, scoring runners from second and third.

But Linfield stretched the lead back to seven with another big offensive inning. Prestianni continued her hot hitting, scoring two runs off a double. Hartmann and Ashley Garcia also supplied RBIs.

The Lutes refused to go out quietly, scoring twice more in the top of the seventh. Kaely Cuthill hit a long ball into the left field corner, allowing two runners to score.

Pacific Lutheran threatened once more in the top of the seventh and had the bases loaded. But Kaitlyn Lowery flied out to Jaydee Baxter for the final out.

Prestianni finished hitting 2 for 4 with five RBIs and Hartmann and Emily Keagbine each went 2 for 3 with two RBIs apiece.

Pitching ace Claire Velaski got the win for the Wildcats, racking up five strikeouts during five innings of work.