Pirates battle Bruins for playoff position

by Korey Hope

The Whitworth softball squad lost three of four games against the visiting George Fox Bruins on Senior Weekend last weekend. The losses dropped the Pirates into a tie for third in the Northwest Conference, making the doubleheader that was played on Tuesday, April 16 against Willamette a deciding factor in Whitworth’s playoff bid.

Coming into the weekend, the Pirates (14-12 NWC) needed two victories in four games against George Fox (15-13 NWC) to secure a spot in the Northwest Conference Tournament. The Bruins managed to win three, putting pressure on the Pirates in their final two games.

As of Sunday, Whitworth was guaranteed a spot in the NWC Tournament at Linfield April 20-21 if they won both games against Willamette on Tuesday.

If they split the doubleheader, Pacific University (14-12 NWC), who played a doubleheader against Puget Sound Tuesday, needed to lose at least one to the Loggers (2-24 NWC) for Whitworth to have a chance at the NWC Tournament.

The Whitworthian production occurred Sunday night before the games on Tuesday, but thewhitworthian.com and whitworthpirates.com will have Tuesday’s scores and playoff information.

In game one of Saturday’s doubleheader against George Fox the Pirates fought back from a 4-1 deficit to make it a one-run game heading into the seventh inning.

Senior designated hitter Jamie Brunner hit her fifth home run, a two-run shot, for Whitworth in the comeback effort.

But the Bruins tacked on an insurance run in the top of the seventh and junior pitcher Allyssa DenDekker closed out the game for George Fox. The final score was 5-3.

Game two saw more solid pitching from the Bruins, and this time it was junior pitcher Erin Hento. Hento entered the sixth inning with a 1-0 lead and only allowed two hits up to that point.

Then, the Pirates exploded for five runs in the sixth inning, including back-to-back RBIs from Brunner and senior center fielder Heather Hesselgesser.

Sophomore pitcher Megan Fisher threw the final five innings for Whitworth and allowed only two hits with seven strikeouts to earn the victory. The final score was 5-1.

“We were happy to get a win, but we knew that we needed to win at least one on Sunday to keep our spot in the conference playoffs,” junior outfielder Makenzie Hope said.

Sunday’s doubleheader was much  more sloppy defensively from both sides, as the teams combined for 12 errors on the day. Game one was a back-and-forth affair and needed extra innings to be decided.

It was 5-5 in the top of the eighth when sophomore pinch-hitter Rachel Sundquist hit an RBI single to right field, which eventually proved to be the game-winner. The Bruins took game one by a score of 6-5.

Game two was the polar opposite of game one as George Fox hit two home runs including a grand slam from freshman shortstop Kayla Anderson, all part of an eight-run fourth inning. The Bruins would tack on four more runs in the next two innings to earn the 12-1 victory after the eight-run mercy came into effect after five innings of play.

“We didn’t execute this weekend,” senior outfielder Heather Hesselgesser said. “We had runners on and didn’t score, and we also didn’t have the fire we had in middle of the season.”

The four seniors on the Whitworth Pirate squad (Hesselgesser, Brunner, catcher Jessica Ross and outfielder Natalie Evers) were the seniors representing the Bucs on Senior Day at Marks Field.

The seniors will have played two more games at their home field, though, as the Pirates played Willamette in two make-up contests after a rainout earlier in the season.

Whitworth will have reached the playoffs for the second time in the past six years if they beat Willamette twice on Tuesday, April 16.

“We’re going to bring it to Willamette on Tuesday and hopefully we can get it together and get to playoffs,” head coach Cristal Brown said. “And make a little bit better of a showing in playoffs, too.”

Contact Korey Hope at khope16@my.whitworth.edu

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