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.