by Andrew Goodwin | Sports Editor
The Whitworth Pirates are the champions of the 2017 Northwest Conference Tournament.
The Bucs defeated the Pacific Lutheran Lutes in the second game of Sunday’s championship 3-2 to clinch the conference’s bid to the NCAA Tournament in May.
“We didn’t have any doubt,” Tessa Matthews, ‘17, said. “We knew it would be hard for them to beat us twice.”
Whitworth took an early lead in Sunday’s winner take all second game. Rheanne Lewis, ‘20, singled Michelle Silva, ‘18, home to make it 1-0 Bucs in the second inning.
PLU countered with a run in the fourth. Samantha Simundson set the Lutes up to score by doubling, and Nicole Schroeder drove her in on a fielder’s choice.
Right after PLU tied the game up, Whitworth fired back in the bottom of the fourth inning. Silva and Matthews singled and Madi Perez, ‘17, drove in Silva with a single of her own to regain the lead. Then, Lewis drove in her second run of the game on a squeeze bunt, which scored the hard-charging Matthews from third.
After struggling in the first game of Sunday’s championship doubleheader, Perez bounced back with seven innings of two run pitching in game two. She struck out two and escaped from perilous situations multiple times.
“Madi’s done this all season,” head coach Cristal Brown said. “Most pitchers in this league can’t do what she does.”
The first championship game went the Lutes’ way from the start. Perez’s scoreless innings streak snapped 15 as PLU put up three runs in the second inning. A flurry of singles and pair of walks did the damage for the Lutes.
The Bucs’ scored in the next inning, but the runs weren’t enough, as PLU would put up 10 more insurance runs to win game one 13-2
Prior to the title, Perez had tossed 14 shutout innings to open the tournament, holding both Pacific Lutheran and George Fox scoreless. Over the two matchups, Perez struck out six and allowed just 11 baserunners.
“Madi was out-of-this-world stellar,” Ramirez said. “She performed at a level everyone wants to be at.”
The Bucs managed just two runs against the Bruins in the opener, scoring on a poorly fielded bunt and a groundout. However, Perez made it plenty and escaped a bases loaded jam in the top of the sixth inning to ensure a Whitworth victory.
Whitworth took on Pacific Lutheran in game two after the Lutes upset the Linfield Wildcats on Friday. The Pirates offense got to Lute pitcher Marissa Miller in the third, fourth and fifth innings to tally up seven runs.
Pirate runners scored from all over the lineup. Lewis, Whitworth’s number seven hitter, smoked a double down the left field line to give Whitworth a 2-0 advantage. Lewis then scored on a single by Logan Miller, ‘20.
Perez, Shannon Wessel, ‘17, and Ramirez all drove in runs as well for the Bucs, who advanced to the title game with a 7-0 win.
Next up, Whitworth awaits word from the NCAA for their regional tournament assignment. The Bucs hosted the regional last year, and hope to do so again this season.