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

Men’s basketball clinches NWC Tournament crown

After battling a tough Willamette team on Thursday, the men’s basketball team defeated an upstart Lewis & Clark team on Saturday, 69-58, for the Northwest Conference Tournament Championship. In a game with seven lead changes and only a five-point Pirate lead at the half, the contest would come down to the last few minutes before a definitive result could be determined. With the student section clad in white and the Pirate players sporting their white home jerseys, the setting looked like a good vs. evil matchup out of a movie as Whitworth opposed Lewis & Clark in their black and orange.

Head coach Matt Logie made a change for the starting lineup by starting senior forward Adam Wilks and having freshman guard Matt Staudacher come off the bench.

“We wanted to establish ourselves on the glass early on and really set the tone on the defensive side,” Logie said.  “When we were able to go in with Matt and play our traditional lineup, we were able to pick up the pace and the tempo and I thought it worked pretty well.”

Despite winning the tip, the Bucs could not get anything going early offensively. Both teams traded the lead for the first 10 minutes of play with Lewis & Clark forwards Bradley Carter and Carl Appleton providing very physical presences in the paint. In the last Whitworth outing against the Pioneers, Appleton finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds while scoring key baskets to keep Pioneers within striking distance throughout that game.

“It’s tough. [Appleton]’s a huge body and he knows how to use it,” Farnsworth said. “It’s just kind of about working early and trying to fight for position early because if he gets you buried, it’s pretty tough. He can just put you in the rim.”

However, early foul trouble and the Pirates’ effective full-court offensive push proved too much for the slower Lewis & Clark forwards.

“I thought it was important for us tonight against Lewis & Clark to try to play with some tempo and pace and get some things in transition because their defense is so good in the halfcourt,” Logie said. “You got to give your guys some freedom to attack and make plays and fortunately our defense was able to create some opportunities.”

Late scoring runs in the first half along with a 3-point dagger from sophomore guard Kenny Love at the buzzer gave the Pirates a 31-26 advantage after 20 minutes of play.

“We knew that their guards were really an area where we could try and get into the paint and free up things for others,” Love said. “Some of our basic sets where you throw it inside wouldn’t work so we tried to get some advantages there and that was one of them.”

After putting up 13 and six points respectively in the first half, Love and junior forward George Valle effectively took over the Pirate offense for the rest of the game.

Lewis & Clark would end up tying the game at 48 and taking a slim advantage off of a 3-pointer from second-team all-NWC guard Jason Luhnow at 8:08 to take a 51-50 lead. However, after a lay-in by Staudacher to retake the Whitworth lead, 52-51, the lead would never change again.

With the help of three 3-pointers from Luhnow in the last nine minutes, the Pioneers stayed within striking distance, but the performances of Valle and Love in the final 10 minutes made the difference in the end.

As Valle and Love continued to score, three steals and five blocks in the last six and a half minutes for Whitworth iced any chance of a Pioneer comeback. The game ended with the “Hack-a-Pirate” strategy for Lewis & Clark and the student section chanting, “I believe that we will win.”

Love led all scorers with 20 points while Valle, who was Mr. Consistent for the entire game, ended with 19. Valle said the multiple areas of talent from the guard position allowed Love and himself to be successful.

“Since we have so many good shooters, they don’t really like to help off of them if we put a good shooter in each corner. They can only help so much,” Valle said. “With that in their heads, Kenny and I are coming in with a full head of steam, attacking our defender and being able to create some good things.”

The Pirates clinched an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament with their ninth consecutive NWC Tournament crown. The Pirate matchup for the first round was announced on Monday. The men will take on LaGrange College in Atlanta, Georgia on Friday, March 6.

 

Connor Soudani

Sports Editor

Volleyball takes two wins on Homecoming stretch

During Homecoming last weekend, the volleyball team defeated both George Fox and Lewis & Clark at home. In the past, the Pirates have tended to split wins on Homecoming weekend, but this weekend marked the first Homecoming since 2011 in which the volleyball team earned two wins at home. The women now stand second in the Northwest Conference, holding six wins and two losses in conference play. On Friday night, the women shut down George Fox in three games. In the first set, the Bruins managed to stay two points behind Whitworth until the Pirates strung together an 11-4 run. Junior Shawna Korshavn led the team with four kills. The teams exchanged kills in the last minutes of the match, but the Bruin hitters could not overcome the Pirates’ six-point lead. Freshman Cassy Mendoza finished the match with a final kill.

During the second game, Whitworth started off strong with a 9-0 run. Sophomore Brenna Bruil dominated on defense with six successful attacks. Although George Fox attempted to make a comeback to 24-17 near the end of the game, their service error led to another Pirate win.

“Our intensity was a really strong point. The other team did a really good job tipping, but I also felt that we were in control the whole game,” Leonard said.

The Bruins fought back in the third set, gaining a two-point lead before the Pirates moved ahead with a 5-2 run due to several Bruin errors. Bruil finished the match with her twelfth kill of the night. Junior Nicole Leonard led the team with 18 digs while junior Mallorie Schoesler followed closely behind with 14 digs.

On Saturday night, Lewis & Clark challenged the Pirate defense with 14 kills in the first set. The Pioneers took a five-point lead early on while Whitworth struggled to overcome attack errors. The Pirates climbed back up to 22-24 but the Pioneers prevailed with a kill.

The Pirates came back in the second set, improving their hitting percentage from .044 to .105. Freshman outside hitter Cassandra Mendoza made four kills in the first ten points, as each team struggled to gain a lead. The teams tied at 19-19 but Whitworth won on a 6-3 run. In the third set, the Pirates shut out Pioneer attacks with four blocks. The Pirates won on Mendoza’s service ace.

“This weekend we were focusing on playing like we have something to prove because we’re second in the conference right now,” Schoesler said. “Tonight, our blocking improved. We really focused on that in practice. Getting more touches on the blocks really helped us with our defense.”

During the fourth set, Lewis & Clark gained a narrow lead until Leonard and junior Shawna Korshavn made a combined three kills to take the lead. Mendoza made five successful kills after that, while Leonard wrapped up the Pirate win with her sixteenth kill of the night.

“We knew that Lewis & Clark was going to match up well with us well defensively and so we were going to have to earn our points. I think we were prepared for that battle tonight,” Head Coach Kati Bodecker said.

Overall, the Pirates out-blocked the Pioneers 10 to six—their highest number of blocks this season. They will play Pacific Lutheran at home on Friday night.

 

Leah Dassler

Staff Writer