by Tyler Jezierski
Whitworth’s softball team started off the season undefeated in conference play after beating Willamette in both doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday.
Freshman pitcher Madi Perez did her part in the first game on Saturday, giving up only four hits, three walks and recording two strikeouts. Senior shortstop Caylan Haehl went 3-4 at the plate and scored three runs for Whitworth.
Throwing errors and wild pitches from the Bearcats played a role in the Whitworth win, setting up Haehl and junior infielder Peyton McMahon for two unanswered scores. Whitworth won that game 5-2.
Willamette led the second game on Saturday going into the fifth inning when senior rightfielder Makenzie Hope scored on an illegal pitch, making it 3-1. Whitworth caught a break at the start of the seventh inning as the Willamette defense committed back-to-back fielding errors. Junior pitcher/rightfielder Taylor Gilbert took advantage and singled to left field, bringing in sophomore pinch-runner Megan John for the score. Freshman catcher Kayla Batastini reached on a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded, bringing home McMahon. With the bases loaded, freshman shortstop Tessa Matthews walked, allowing Gilbert to score and give Whitworth the 4-3 lead. Five more runs came in and Whitworth won the game 9-3.
“We had to use the whole team to fight back a couple times and not give up. We were the comeback kids and believed in ourselves to win the game,” Hope said.
In the first game on Sunday, three runs in the top of the third inning put the Bucs in the lead. Freshman second baseman Shannon Wessel put runners on second and third after a double down the leftfield line. McMahon followed the wild pitch that scored Haehl with a double, scoring Wessel and Matthews.
Willamette came back in the fourth inning, tying the game at three, but Whitworth scored in the sixth inning on a wild pitch. An unearned run in the bottom of the seventh was not enough for the Bearcats, and Whitworth’s freshman pitcher Makayla Lefever earned her first win in the circle. Lefever gave up only four hits, two earned runs and struck out three in six innings. Perez struck out one in picking up the save, as Whitworth won the game 5-4.
Whitworth’s offense went right back to it in the second inning of game two. Freshman third baseman Kelsey Stroshine hit a two-run single to put the Pirates up 2-0. Willamette scored in the bottom of the third to make it a 2-1 ball game. In the fifth inning, both teams scored, making it 3-2 in the Pirates’ favor. In the top of the sixth, sophomore outfielder Alyssa Hall scored after a hit by junior center fielder Sacha Clow putting Whitworth up 4-2. Another Bearcat error allowed Hope to score, letting Whitworth pull away with the win, 5-2.
“It was extremely important getting those early runs in the game. We wanted to be strong from the start setting the tone and keep that momentum throughout the game,” Johnson said. “This allowed us to continue adding runs throughout the game.”
Perez earned her fifth win of the season, allowing six hits with one earned run and three strikeouts in the game.
“Since we were the visitors and these were our first conference games, we definitely made a statement and good start to the season. Especially with four games in a row, we can see what our team needs to work on and I’m excited to see where we can go from here,” Perez said.
Whitworth will continue Northwest Conference play against Pacific Lutheran on March 1-2.
Contact Tyler Jezierski at firstname.lastname@example.org