Coach of the Year: Cristal Brown

Head coach Cristal Brown led the Whitworth softball team to their first conference title in the history of the program in the 2015 season. The fifth head coach to take charge of the team, Brown took up the role in 2011 and has led the team to improvements every season since. Brown’s previous softball experience includes lead-off batting in high school and college, becoming the Western State Junior College Player of the year in 1998. From 2008 to 2011, she was the head coach at the Kingsburg High School in California. She held an impressive 101-29 record over her four seasons of coaching. The team won four Central Sequoia League Championships, a Central Section crown in 2008 and were the Central Section runners-up in 2009. She was a Central Sequoia League Coach of the year honoree three times. She was also assistant varsity coach at Valencia High School for two years and assistant coached at The Master’s College.

“When I was young, I grew up without a whole lot of opportunity,” Brown said. “Softball gave me the opportunity to go to college and get my life on the straight and narrow path. I believe we have established a culture and a tradition that will continue to exist and that we can continue to achieve every year.”

At the beginning of the season, Randy Clark, long-time mentor from her time playing at The Master’s College and current softball assistant coach, suffered from a heart attack shortly before beginning the season. Brown said this occurrence caused the Whitworth women to “pull together for him” and led to the season being different than the others.

Indeed, the road to the successful season was marred by moments of discouragement; however, Brown served as a calming and inspirational force for the team, all the while providing the energy and confidence necessary to drive them along and make school history in spite of Clark’s health.

“During one of our games against George Fox, we were losing in the last inning,”  junior catcher Megan John said. “Coach brought us together and told us that she trusted us to have her back. We came out that inning, and we won the game.”

The victory at George Fox was a crucial point of the season, as the victory placed them in first place for the conference tournament.

“She just spoke with a kind of energy that made us want to go out there and win,” sophomore utility player Shannon Wessel said. That game ended with Wessel hitting a grand slam that resulted in a Bucs victory.

The team ended up breaking the season record for wins and won a conference title—putting themselves on the map for years to come. The team was drawn together by a strong sense of both camaraderie and family, all due to Brown and her emphasis on team-building. During the season, Brown would call players aside numerous times to not only discuss strategy, but to inspire a sense of self-confidence needed in order to ensure victory.

“Just her saying those few words helped us get our act together and win,” freshman outfielder Chesley Hayes said.

The idea of family and holding each other accountable for actions is a strongly promoted ideal by Brown that is echoed across the team.

“She really has challenged us to live out being a family and supporting each other through everything we’re facing, softball or not,” John said.

The team notably donated a refrigerator toward the alternative school in Mead, as well as spent time with the students. Brown’s commitment to the team and the school is another factor that plays into her leadership style.

“I love Whitworth’s welcoming culture; it’s a great institution, and I feel like I can coach without conflict toward it’s academic mission,” Brown said. The team’s season has come to an end, as they will not be advancing to the NCAA tournament. For more information on Brown, visit whitworthpirates.com.

 

Will Carsh

Staff Writer

Softball knocked out of NWC tournament after Linfield and George Fox losses

The Whitworth Softball team lost two of three games in the Northwest Conference tournament last weekend, playing a total of three games against Linfield, Pacific, and George Fox. The losses proved to be the end point for the Bucs’ tournament run despite winning the first NWC title for the program. Practices will continue, as an opportunity for regionals is still a possibility to be decided on May 4. First-place Whitworth was upset in the first game by the fourth-seated Linfield Wildcats.

In the top of the second inning, the Wildcats landed two runs against the Pirates. In the bottom of the third, Whitworth managed to earn a run through freshman outfielder Chelsey Hayes bringing junior outfielder Alyssa Hall in with a hit to left field. The Wildcats added another run to the board in the fourth inning, but the Bucs came back with another run of their own in the bottom of the sixth.

With the score at 3-1 during the seventh inning, the Bucs impressively managed to shut down Linfield’s offense, putting themselves in position to take the lead at the end of the game. After two outs, however, the suspense continued to grow as the crowd fell silent. Then, the crowd and dugout erupted into chaos when junior catcher Megan John struck out to end the game. With Whitworth losing, they moved on to play Pacific later that day.

The Bucs fared better in the second game with a final score of 2-1. Both teams scored in the first inning, with sophomore utility player Shannon Wessel landing a hit that brought Hayes home. The game kept this score until the bottom of the eighth, when senior outfielder Peyton McMahon landed a hit that resulted in her making her way through all of the bases and back home, winning the game for the Bucs.

The final game of the weekend was a 3-0 loss against George Fox, removing Whitworth from the tournament. Despite the way things ended, the Wessel and Hayes had positive things to say about the season as a whole.

“We are the first team ever in Whitworth softball history to win a title, and that is something that is really special. I am so excited and thankful to have been a part of it,” Wessel said.

“I think the team grew the most in California. It was our first trip of the season and the team had to rely on each other because that is when our coach Randy had his heart attack,” Hayes said.

The Bucs continue to remain optimistic of future prospects for the season.

“We’re continuing to assume that we’re still going [to Regionals] and will rest up, but continue to practice until we find out for sure,” John said.

 

Will Carsh

Staff Writer

Well-rounded games lift softball to NWC crown

The Whitworth softball team claimed another series on Saturday and Sunday with three winning games and one loss against the Lewis & Clark Pioneers, resulting in winning the Northwest Conference Championship. The Bucs can lay claim to winning every series with the exception of one, in which they tied against Linfield. With the performance this weekend, the team has won the first Conference title in the program’s history. The first game of the series yielded early scoring for the Bucs, with sophomore utility player Shannon Wessel hitting a sacrifice fly to bring freshman outfielder Chelsey Hayes to the home plate in the bottom of the first inning. That was shortly followed by senior outfielder Peyton McMahon hitting another sacrifice fly to bring junior catcher Megan John home. The team followed that up in the second inning with three more runs. Sophomore infielder Kelsey Stroshine landed a hit that resulted in a run by sophomore utility player Molly Steck scoring. Stroshine and senior outfielder Sacha Clow made it home after the Pioneers’ pitcher made a throwing error against junior outfielder Alyssa Hall, allowing Clow to walk in. Stroshine later scored after a hit by Hayes in the bottom of the sixth inning, leading to a final score of the first game to be 7-0, Bucs.

The team once again scored right off the bat in the second game of the day, with McMahon hitting a triple to left field that resulted in John and Hayes making runs and McMahon herself scoring due to a throwing error by the catcher, all in the bottom of the first inning. The Bucs scored again in the bottom of the third when sophomore infielder Tessa Matthews landed a double that brought McMahon home, while sophomore catcher Kayla Batastini later brought home Matthews with a hit of her own. In the top of the fourth inning, the Pioneers struck back with a home run of their own, but due to the Bucs defense, no more runs were scored, ending the game on a 5-1 Whitworth victory.

Of particular note was sophomore pitcher Makayla Lefever starting in her position for the first time this season. She pitched the entirety of the first two games due to sophomore Madi Perez suffering from an injury.

“It was really a lot of pressure, but I know I had my team behind my back,” Lefever said.

Perez was back for the next two games on Sunday and it proved to be a suspenseful ordeal for the Bucs as the first game resulted in a loss. In the first, sixth and seventh innings, the Pioneers managed to accumulate seven runs against the Bucs, though a hit landed by Hayes in the bottom of the seventh brought home freshman utility player Kelsey Downey and senior outfielder Sacha Clow, preventing the game from being a shutout, with the game ending in a 2-7 defeat. However, the loss put Whitworth’s conference title temporarily in question, as another win from the Pioneers would have resulted in a tie for the series.

“Our goal for the weekend was to play like champions, and even after that first game, we pulled together and worked really hard,” Wessel said.

The last game of the day resulted in one final Whitworth victory. For the first two innings, the scoreboard remained unmoved, as both teams utilized their defenses to cancel out the opposition. In the top of the third, Lewis & Clark managed to land three runs, pushing themselves ahead of Whitworth. The lead would not last long however, as a Hayes single resulted in Clow and Stroshine crossing the plate. John landed a single that brought Hall home and McMahon hit a sacrifice fly to bring Hayes home as well, putting the Bucs up in first at the bottom of the third by one run. Hayes later landed another hit in the bottom of the fourth that brought Clow in once again, while John, Wessel and McMahon all landed hits that resulted in runs, bringing the score up to 9-3 at the bottom of the fourth. McMahon landed a hit that brought Wessel home, and sophomore infielder Tessa Matthews concluded the game with a left-field double that brought McMahon to home plate, ending the game at 11-3.

The series victory marks the first time the Bucs have won an NWC title, and though individual games were lost, the Bucs managed to make it through the season without a single series loss on their record.

“There are hard days, but it’s about being able to come together and have these highs to carry you through to points like this. There’s always room for improvement, and I believe we can come and do this at the tournament next weekend,” John said.

The Bucs will move on to the NWC Tournament on Friday and Saturday with their first matchup against 2014 NWC champion Linfield.

 

Will Carsh

Staff Writer

Softball road split

Last weekend, the Whitworth softball team split four games against Linfield College. The first day yielded mixed results for the Bucs as they lost their first game 4-0 and win the second one 8-3. The second day brought similar results, with a 3-4 loss followed by a 4-1 win. Linfield’s pitcher threw well during the first game, gaining 12 strikeouts and allowing very few hits for the Bucs.

“We may end up seeing that pitcher again in the conference tournament, so now we know how to hit her pitches and how to make the adjustment at the plate,” sophomore catcher Kayla Batastini said.

The second game resulted in a Whitworth win with sophomore UT Shannon Wessel landing a three-run homer at the top of the first inning, giving Whitworth an early lead. This was shortly followed by Batastini driving in sophomore infielder Tessa Matthews in the same inning. Batastini landed an RBI double in the fourth inning, as did freshman outfielder Chelsey Hayes. The sixth inning yielded two more runs; Wessel drove in junior outfielder Alyssa Hall, and senior outfielder Peyton McMahon drove in Wessel.

The third game resulted in another Whitworth loss, albeit a close one. Peyton McMahon landed a hit that led to Hayes coming in home in the first inning and Matthews brought home Megan John and Hayes with a hit of her own in the fifth. However, the Linfield women came back in the bottom of the fifth with four runs of their own, leading to their victory.

Whitworth came back from the loss with another win, however.

“It can really kill the mood for a team after a loss, but we came back stronger in the second games and got two wins out of it,” Wessell said.

Despite the split in wins and losses, the team remains optimistic toward future games and the conference tournament.

“Everyone was always cheering, and no matter what, our defense always stayed in the game and never gave up,” Hayes said.

The Whitworth softball team plays at home again this weekend against Lewis & Clark on the April 18-19.

 

Will Carsh

Staff Writer

Softball wins first two, rained out

Last Saturday, the Whitworth softball team played two games against the Pacific University Boxers, winning the first game 4-2 and the second game 5-0. The team played the Boxers again for two more games on Monday. Those results can be found online at whitworthpirates.com. The Saturday game began with the score tied 0-0 after the first inning; however, a home run by sophomore catcher Kayla Batastini resulted in bringing sophomore infielder Kelsey Stroshine and sophomore infielder Tessa Matthews through home, bringing the score up to 3-0. Stroshine would later land a hit that resulted in sophomore utility player Shannon Wessel reaching home as well in the sixth inning, bringing the score up to 4-0. At the top of the seventh inning, the Boxers scored two runs of their own, but were unable to surpass or tie Whitworth’s score. The game ended with a 4-2 win for the Bucs.

“Scoring early on allowed our pitchers to not be as stressed out,” freshman outfielder Chelsey Hayes said.

The second game kicked off with Whitworth scoring two runs in the first inning due to Matthews landing a hit that allowed senior outfielder Peyton McMahon and junior outfielder Alyssa Hall to make it home. That was followed in the second inning by Hayes landing a hit that resulted in a Whitworth run by Batastini. In the sixth inning, junior catcher Megan John landed a hit which allowed Stroshine to add another run to the board. John would eventually score by walking to home due to a fielding error, resulting in a final score of 5-0.

“It was really awesome to come out and win the first two games against a team we lost to last year,” Batastini said.

“Our team played united in every aspect of the game. We gelled with each other, which is our goal- unity,” Stroshine said.

Next week, the softball team plays on Wednesday for a doubleheader against Eastern Oregon University.

 

Will Carsh

Staff Writer

Softball continues series win streak

The softball team played four games against Pacific Lutheran University, with two on Saturday and two more on Sunday, and winning the first 3-0 and the second 9-1. Whitworth followed these games the next day with a 4-3 win and a 5-2 loss. In spite of ending on defeat, Whitworth won the series against Pacific Lutheran overall, continuing their streak of winning every series thus far. Sophomore Catcher Kayla Batastini credits the streak to practice ethic. “We work really hard at practice all during the week, do exactly what we’re taught, and then come out and do our job,” Batastini said.

The first game of the weekend kicked off with a shutout. The Bucs began the game with a couple of runs within the first inning. Senior OF Peyton McMahon landed the first run by sending sophomore UT Shannon Wessel to home plate, and shortly completed a run of her own due to sophomore IF Tessa Matthews landing a hit.

The following inning yielded no change of score, but in the third, Whitworth added another run to the board with Matthews hitting a pop fly that resulted in sophomore Wessel landing another run. The team then managed to successfully prevent any points scored against them for the the remainder of the game.

The second game opened with the Bucs sacrificing a run early on and not scoring any in return for the vast majority of the match. However, in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Pirates managed to score nine consecutive runs, which in turn resulted in the game ending in that inning.

The second day of games opened with another Whitworth win. Wessel landed a hit in the fourth inning that resulted in a home run while two other players were on base. After adding three runs to the board, the Bucs were able to pass PLU’s two-run lead. While PLU managed to tie things up in the fifth inning, another home run by Matthews resulted in Whitworth winning the match.

“The best thing to do is to just keep pushing for more runs,” Wessel said about coming back from being behind in a game.

The weekend ended with the Bucs losing the final game of the series against PLU. After earning two runs during the second inning, PLU would go on to stay ahead for the rest of the game, in spite of sophomore IF Kelsey Stroshine and Kayla Batastini landing hits that resulted in a couple of Whitworth runs.

The final score of the game came down to a 5-2 Whitworth loss. However, Whitworth remains undefeated in series wins, a fact that Matthews credits to the team dynamic.

“When people need to get hits, they get on that and do their jobs, and we have really good pitchers and defense,” Matthews said.

Next weekend, the Bucs will go up against Pacific for another four games at home.

 

Will Carsh

Staff Writer

Softball wins three of four against Willamette

On Feb. 28, the softball team pulled off a double win against Willamette, shutting them out 3-0 in the first game and achieving a 9-5 victory with the second. The following day, Whitworth lost a game 3-1 before finishing out the weekend with an 11-0 victory, resulting in an overall series win against Willamette. Whitworth’s defense played a massive role in the first game, preventing Willamette from scoring throughout the game. After successfully preventing Willamette from scoring in the first inning, senior outfielder Peyton McMahon broke the ice and landed a hit that resulted in a Whitworth run. This trend continued into the second and third innings with Willamette being held at bay until Whitworth’s offense retaliated with two more runs.

For the rest of the game, however, not a single run against Willamette was scored. Inning after inning onwards, the game was entirely defensive, with both Whitworth and Willamette preventing runs from reaching the board. Whitworth proceeded to get a total of 21 outs to Willamette’s 18 outs, and in spite of some close calls in the fifth and sixth innings, the game ended at 3-0.

“We hit well today and played a really defensive game. We have a really solid defense,” freshman UT Kelsey Downey said of the first match.

The Pirates followed up their first victory against Willamette with another one that began a half hour later. Gaining a 6-0 lead early on, the Bucs continued their offensive strike by scoring three more in the latter half of the game, but also let five get by.

The next day, the Bucs had their third game against Willamette. For the first four innings, not a single run was scored. The second and third innings were particularly tense, with Whitworth barely preventing the Bearcats from scoring. They first gained an out on a near home run in the second and then successfully stopped a Willamette player midway through a steal. During the fifth inning, Willamette landed a single run before getting two more due to a home run hit. Whitworth managed to get a run up on the board during the next inning, but didn’t achieve a comeback, resulting in a 3-1 loss.

The fourth and final game off the series kicked off shortly afterward with the Bucs holding off Willamette defensively before hitting two runs within the first inning. While the second inning saw no points being scored either way, the third inning saw a major change of pace for the game. After scoring twice again, Whitworth hit three home runs, with sophomore Kayla Batastini hitting the first and being shortly followed by senior Peyton McMahon and sophomore Kelsey Stroshine. With no more runs made for the rest of the game, the final tally came to be 11-0, resulting in Whitworth winning the series against Willamette.

“We out-hit and out-pitched them, with very minimal earned runs given up,” head coach Cristal Brown said.

The wins against Willamette continues the team’s streak of no series losses.

“We have a team goal to not lose a single series,” freshman outfielder Chelsea Hayes said.

The Whitworth softball team will be playing another four games this Saturday and Sunday against Pacific Lutheran at home.

 

Will Carsh

Staff Writer