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

Golf teams take second and fourth at NWC Tournament

The Whitworth men’s and women’s golf teams both competed in the Northwest Conference tournament on Saturday and Sunday. The men ended in second place and the women in fourth at the end of the first day. The second day ended with the men taking second in the tournament, but due to positioning established beforehand, ending with a first-place ranking in the conference. The women finished in third, placing them in third for conference. Willamette led at the end of the first day on the men’s side with Whitworth and Pacific Lutheran tied for second place. Willamette’s first place golfer for the day was Clark Wilson, with a score of 71. Juniors Samson Martinez and Oliver Rudnicki of Whitworth trailed with a score of 77, tying with two other golfers for fourth place. The overall standings of the match placed them in second for the day- a goal they needed to achieve in order to reach the coveted NWC title. The final tallies for the day saw Willamette at 299, Pacific Lutheran and Whitworth at 315, and George Fox at 317.

“Finishing well at conference and going to Nationals is our goal every year,” head golf coach Warren Friedrichs said of the weekend. “Which, of course, is difficult, as we end up playing until finals week.”

The next day, the men managed to successfully hold their position through the tournament, finishing in second place and claiming the 2014-2015 Conference title. The points from the Spring Classic added to their score posted from the the most recent tournament, elevating them from second place over Willamette, who won the NWC tournament overall. Martinez finished tied for sixth place after shooting a 152 cumulative score. Junior Andrew Dodge finished in eighth place with a 153- hitting a 73 for the second day. Rudnicki ended up finishing 16th with a 158. Whitworth’s totalled 618, trailing Willamette’s 613, but pulling ahead of Linfield’s 621 and George Fox’s 624. Willamette was outshot by the Pirates at the Spring Classic earlier this season, which resulted in the Bucs claiming the conference title.

“Making it to nationals was definitely our motivation,” Martinez. “We want to put Whitworth on the map. I am so excited to represent Whitworth at nationals and hope everyone knows this win was for the Whitworth community.”

On the women’s side of things, the team finished the first day in fourth, shooting a score of 335, with Whitman’s 333, Pacific Lutheran’s 325, and George Fox’s 319 all leading. Paige Henry of Pacific Lutheran led the individual scoring of the day, but Whitworth senior Nicole Lomax managed to tie for second with George Fox’s Loreece Magsanide, both boasting scores of 77. Other notables included sophomore Michal Schuster tying for 12th with a score of 83 as well as junior Yvonne LaCoursiere and freshman Katie Ochoa tying for 25th with scores of 90.

The second day yielded an even greater performance for the Bucs with the women finishing in third place in the tournament and in the conference. George Fox claimed first place with a score of 622, Whitman landed in second with a score of 653, and Whitworth finished with a score of 657.

“I think we were peeved after our performance the first day and we came out with some fire,” junior Chelsea Bayley said.

Lomax finished ninth with a score of 162, with Bayley and Schuster finishing in a four-way tie for tenth with scores of 163.

The men’s team will be moving on to Nationals, which will be held May 12-15 at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro, N.C.

 

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

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

Women's basketball ends tournament run with loss to UPS

The women’s basketball team suffered a defeat from the Puget Sound Loggers, 71-64, Thursday night. Their loss in the semifinal round ended the Pirate’s run in the Northwest Conference Tournament. The Loggers took control of the first half by taking an eight-point lead only five minutes into the game. The Pirates picked up their offense when freshman Callie Harwood scored a 3-pointer and helped bring the score within four..

“The excitement of the loud crowd and the vibrant atmosphere got [the Loggers] pumped up and it got us rushing things a bit,” head coach Helen Higgs said.

The Loggers were able to widen their lead by shooting 83.3% from the strike. By 7:38, the Loggers held a nine-point lead at 22-13. Whitworth once again attempted to even the score with the help of senior forward Katara Belton-Sharp who led the Pirates’ offense for the first half.

The Puget Sound lead varied throughout the first half, but was still in UPS favor, 34-29, at halftime.

The UPS lead diminished in the second half when the Pirates began to drain more shots. However, it did not happen right away. The half began with the Loggers scoring six points while the Pirates could only earn two.

At 14:11 the Loggers held their biggest lead at 48-33. Puget Sound held a strong lead until 9:03, when Harwood made a layup that started Whitworth’s comeback.

After numerous timeouts, the Pirates were able to slowly close the gap. In the two and a half minutes between 4:46 and 2:07, Whitworth was able to score 11 points, while the Loggers were only able to score three.

“We talked about extending the pressure, and then we ran a few sets, and we tried to get different looks at shots,” Higgs said.

With the help of junior guard KC McConnell, the Pirates were only behind by one point with a score of 65-64. Belton-Sharp also assisted in the comeback by scoring seven points in the second half.

The last two minutes of the game helped the Loggers acquire their victory. By hitting six free throws, UPS iced the contest with a score of 71-64.

George Fox defeated Whitman 78-64, so the Loggers and the Bruins will compete in the tournament final on Saturday night.

 

Peter Houston-Hencken

Staff Writer

 

Men's basketball defeats Willamette with five Pirates in double figures

A towel over the face of junior Willamette forward Brandon Luedtke with less than a minute to play said it all for the Whitworth vs. Willamette tournament game on Thursday night. Luedtke, an All-NWC First Team selection, fouled out with less than five minutes to play en route to an 89-64 victory for the Pirates in the first round of the Northwest Conference Tournament. Despite the one-sided end result, the No. 4-seeded Bearcats proved to be a tough bunch. A slow offensive start for the Pirates left Willamette leading 10-5, five minutes in.

However, with strong offensive play from senior forward Adam Wilks, the deficit was closed and the Pirates found themselves tied at 16 three minutes later. A pull-up 3-pointer from sophomore guard and NWC Player of the Year, Kenny Love, sparked a 5-0 run for the Pirates to put them up 21-18. They would retain the lead for the rest of the game. Wilks early performance foreshadowed the 52 points in the paint the Pirates would score in the matchup.

“[Senior forward Taylor Farnsworth and I] just bring a lot of experience. We’ve both been here before and when you have that kind of leadership on the front lines it can just steady the guys,” Wilks said. “When we don’t get off to a great start, when we have the ability to bring in myself, a senior off the bench, to just keep things calm and play our game it really is a huge advantage for us.”

A second pull-up Love 3-pointer would contribute to an eight-point Whitworth lead with six and a half left in the first. A lay-in from sophomore forward Christian Jurlina off a Bearcat turnover would be the only points for Jurlina in the first half. However, 12 points for junior forward George Valle and eight for Kenny Love in the first half were the beginning of a multidimensional scoring effort from all areas of the floor for the Bucs.

“I think the key to our offense recently has been how balanced it has been,” Valle said. “I think we had five guys in double figures tonight which means everyone is scoring, everyone is sharing the ball, passing the ball and getting good looks. I think that’s really the key as to why we’re being so efficient on offense.”

After generating a 43-29 lead at halftime, the Bucs continued their offensive onslaught with Wilks, Love, Valle, freshman guard Matt Staudacher and even Jurlina all reaching double figures by the end of the contest. Inspired performances from Luedtke with 12 and senior Bearcat forward Kyle McNally with 18 points and 10 rebounds would not be enough to overcome the Pirates’ 51.5% shooting from the field and 53.8% from beyond the arc.

Willamette came into the second half with spirited efforts on the offensive and defensive sides of the floor and the Bucs’ early attempts to increase the lead were stymied. However, a steal by Love three minutes in led to a one-handed dunk in traffic that put the ice on any potential Bearcat comeback.

“[The Bearcats] have a great heart. They continue to fight and they’re a hard team to put away which is why they made the playoffs in the first place,” head coach Matt Logie said. “We had a lot of respect for them coming in. We didn’t feel like we played our best in either of those previous matchups with them to date, but we were able to play a little bit better tonight.”

The closest the Bearcats would ever come was within 11, but no further. Love finished with 16, Valle with 19, Staudacher with 11 and Wilkes with 14. In addition, Jurlina highlighted the second half of play with another 14 points after just scoring two in the first half.

“They were playing pretty heavy denial on me [in the first half], but it actually worked out well because it opened up lanes and scoring opportunities for my teammates which is actually pretty good,” Jurlina said. “The second half they sort of stepped off a bit and gave me some space and I was able to utilize that to my advantage.”

Despite Whitworth foul trouble throughout the game, the only player in the game who would foul out would be Luedtke in the closing minutes. Missed opportunities from the 3-point line would prove costly for Willamette as well, going 3-19 from beyond the arc.

The Pirates advance to play upset-minded Lewis & Clark for the tournament championship after Lewis & Clark defeated No. 2-ranked Whitman, 84-73. The championship contest will be played on Saturday night in the Fieldhouse.

 

Connor Soudani

Sports Editor