Female Athlete of the Year: Makayla Lefever

The Whitworthian has selected junior pitcher Makayla Lefever as the female athlete of the year. When Lefever injured her knee her freshman year, there were some questions about what the future of her career would look like with the Pirates. After an up-and-down freshman year due to the injury, Lefever returned for her sophomore season with renewed strength and focus, putting together a nice 2015 campaign. As the 2015 season developed, Lefever and junior Madi Perez were swapping starts for head coach Cristal Brown.

“Sophomore year she came back over the summer, and she was just a completely new pitcher,” senior Alyssa Hall said. “All of her pitches were just great, she was hitting her spots and increased her velocity a lot. It was really cool to see those changes that she had made after just one season.”

One of the most noticeable changes that Lefever made between freshman and sophomore year was her spinning pitches. Throughout her sophomore year, Lefever consistently produced swings and misses.

Then came 2016, in which all of Lefever’s hard work resulted in some of the best numbers in the league. Lefever earned first-team All-Northwest Conference honors with a record of 19-4 and a second-place ranked ERA of 1.98, leading the Northwest Conference in wins. In 2016, however, the opposition knew what to expect from Lefever and the Pirates’ ace had to make some adjustments.

“Makayla’s strength has always been putting spin on her pitches,” coach Brown said. “She has a great high screw, but hitters knew to expect that this season, so she had to reinvent herself as the season went on.”

Though she put together a fantastic athletic career and a mind-boggling 2016 season on the mound, Lefever made a difficult decision to end her softball career and pursue her academic goals. Lefever will head to Washington State University’s nursing school in Spokane this upcoming fall.

“We knew last year at the end of season that nursing school was in the future for Makayla,” Coach Brown said. “She really has her priorities straight, and while she has accomplished some great things in softball, being accepted to nursing school is a very exciting achievement for her.”

“The friendships I’ve made, I’ll always keep that with me,” Lefever said. “I’ll also still be really close with the girls, even though I won’t be on the team anymore.”

“It’s been really cool to form all of these bonds, and it’s totally off the field too,” senior Megan John said. “We don’t just show up and all of a sudden we are all ‘buddy-buddy’, it’s all of the time.”

As Lefever ends her Whitworth career and the 2016 season comes to an end, there is no doubt she was a force to be reckoned with.

Max Carter

Staff Writer

Softball Recap 4/23/2016

After winning the opening game of the NWC Tournament on Friday at Marks Field, Mother Nature had some different plans for Whitworth Softball as the Bucs fell to Linfield in the semifinal game. The Pirates opened up a commanding 6-1 lead through four innings over the Wildcats before lightning struck for Linfield--both literally and physically.

With a four-run top of the fifth, Linfield had pulled within one as thunder and lightning storms became scattered throughout the Inland Northwest, temporarily stopping play. The lightning ceased and the game resumed around 10 am pacific standard time.

The delay worked in Linfield’s favor, as they scored two in the top of the seventh to take a one-run lead. With a fielder’s choice and a sacrifice fly, Linfield brought in the crucial runs, advancing to the championship game.

With the loss, Whitworth would face George Fox, the winner of the loser’s bracket game in which Pacific (Or.) was eliminated from the tournament.

The game was hard fought, with both pitchers turning in valiant efforts. In the end, George Fox prevailed behind the arm of sophomore Madison Sorenson, who threw a complete-game shutout, allowing only four hits and five baserunners.

Whitworth junior Makayla Lefever started every game for the Bucs in the NWC Tourney. The loss on Saturday morning was only her fourth of 2016, in which she compiled 19 wins and a 1.98 ERA over 148.1 innings of work.

Though the season may not have ended in the way the Pirates wanted, it was a fantastic year and an exciting weekend for the Whitworth Softball program. The first two seniors recruited by head coach Cristal Brown--catcher Megan John and outfielder Alyssa Hall--will be graduating this May. According to Brown, the two have done a wonderful job of instilling the Whitworth Softball culture for years to come. With the epic arm of Makayla Lefever and two straight regular season NWC championships, 2017 is sure to bring riches for Brown and the Pirates.

Max Carter

Staff Writer

Softball Recap 4/22

Junior Makayla Lefever continued her dominant season on Friday morning with seven more epic innings, allowing only two runs and striking out five as she led the Bucs to a 4-2 victory over the Pacific (Or.) Boxers in the opening game of the 2016 Northwest Conference Tournament. Last weekend, Lefever fired off 15 straight innings in games two and three of their quad with Linfield to secure two crucial victories, and a regular season NWC championship.

“We had a lot of resting time during the week so we could prepare to go in fresh this weekend,” Lefever said. “I think that helped with our success this morning. We weren’t tired and we knew that we prepared well.”

On the other side of the diamond, Pacific senior Marissa Reichard threw the ball well, but the Bucs’ offense got the job done when it mattered.

Sophomore Kelsey Downey picked up a pair of hits and scored two runs, one of which she scored on sophomore Michelle Silva’s two-run bomb with two outs in the bottom of the fourth. Freshman Morgan Portlock got a piece of the action as well, notching a pinch-hit RBI single in the bottom of the sixth to pad the Pirates’ lead.

With one tournament victory in the bag, the Pirates are far from done, as their sights are set beyond the confines of Marks Field and their Northwest Conference opponents. The Bucs will play again this afternoon at 4:30 pm against the winner of George Fox vs. Linfield.

Max Carter

Staff Writer

Bucs play intense final home games

Following a rough 15-2 loss to visiting Linfield on Saturday morning, the Bucs held a slim one-game lead over the Wildcats with three games remaining in the weekend quad. However, the Pirates followed the crushing defeat with two crucial, well-fought victories to win their second straight regular season Northwest Conference championship. Led by their two seniors, Alyssa Hall and Megan John, the Pirates have become a close-knit, relationship-focused team. Hall and John have been the driving force for head coach Cristal Brown in helping to establish that atmosphere over the last four years.

“They were our first two recruits, and they both have bought into the culture of Whitworth softball and the vision that we had for that,” Brown said. “They have been the centerpiece for carrying that out and making that transformation from year to year.”

While winning is the primary goal for the Pirates when they take to the diamond, the victories and achievements are not what Hall will remember when she hangs up her cleats.

“I’ll take away the personal relationships, memories and the social aspect of it more than the softball,” Hall said. “Yeah, I’ll always love the sport, but the more important part is the relationships that I’ve made and how that has impacted my life.”

Although Hall and John will be graduating in May, Brown and her team are in good shape for the future, with six players set to return as seniors in 2017. Juniors Makayla Lefever, Shannon Wessel and Tessa Matthews are three of those six, and they all stepped up when it mattered this weekend. But despite pulling off the victory in game two on Saturday, it didn’t look very good for the Bucs until late in the contest.

After the Wildcats scored three in the fifth inning and one in the sixth, the Bucs found themselves down 5-1. Then, in the bottom of the seventh inning, an RBI single from sophomore Chelsey Hayes gave the Pirates the opening they needed.

Down to their final out with the bases loaded, sophomore Kelsey Downey ripped a bases-clearing triple to right field to level the score and send the game into extras. With the score tied 5-5, Lefever pitched a scoreless eighth to get the bats in the Pirates’ hands once again. Following two quick outs, Matthews stepped up to the plate and crushed a walk-off homer to center field to end the game and return the two-game NWC lead to the Pirates.

Of all the fantastic play by the Pirates, the performance on the mound by Lefever was likely the most impressive part of the Bucs’ weekend. There is a reason why Lefever has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the NWC in 2016, assistant coach Bob Castle said.

“It goes back to how hard coach Brown works with the pitchers and catchers to focus on working pitch by pitch,” Castle said.

With the regular season NWC championship in their possession, the Pirates have the upper hand as they will host the NWC tournament as the No. 1 seed. The tournament will open on Friday, April 22 at 9 a.m. as the Pirates take on the No. 4 seed Pacific Boxers.

Max Carter

Staff Writer

Softball wins final away games

Whitworth’s softball team won the last three games of its series at Puget Sound in Tacoma after losing the first game 11-7. The Pirates (22-9 overall) continue to have success in Northwest Conference play as they currently hold a three game lead for first place. The weekend started out with a 11-7 loss in which Whitworth allowed  the highest amount of runs against of the season. Puget Sound put up seven runs through two innings, capitalizing on a couple defensive errors. The Loggers also hit two home runs early to the game one win.

Whitworth bounced back and went on to claim game two, 6-0, followed by doubleheader victories on Sunday with 2-0 and 8-1 wins. The difference between the first game and those that followed were defense and pitching.

Junior Makayla Lefever (13-3) collected victories in games 2 and 3 pitching 14 straight innings without a run surrendering a run and allowing only five total hits and two walks.

This strong performance came after those seven runs in game 1.

“I knew my team had my back. I was not thinking too much about [the first game] because I know we could come back from it,” Lefever said.

The Whitworth pitching staff had help throughout the weekend. Softball coach Cristal Brown was happy with the way the team settled down after the first defeat. Brown also credited the players for making adjustments between games 1 and 2.

“They talked amongst themselves and figured it out as a team,” Brown said.

Michelle Silva played a key role in turning things around for Whitworth. The sophomore third baseman had a home run and a double in game two and drove in the only two runs on a fourth inning double during game three.

“It meant a lot. Losing the first game was hard, and it was really cool to see us come together and pick each other up. We came out and played hard,” Silva said.

In the last game, junior Shannon Wessel helped produce run support for Whitworth. Wessel went two for four on the day with a three-run home run in the fifth inning to help break the game open.

For Wessel and her teammates, the weekend signified the team’s ability to work together after a tough loss.

“I think today was about all of us playing for each other. We have put a lot of hard work into the season and it’s getting down to crunch time,” Wessel said.

Next weekend, Whitworth (14-6 NWC) will take on Pacific Lutheran (11-9 NWC) here in Spokane. The dual doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday will each start at noon.

Matt Spencer

Staff Writer

Softball 4/2/16 recap

Whitworth dropped the first game to Puget Sound, 11-7. The Pirates fell behind quickly, 7-0, after two short innings of play behind two key Logger homeruns and a couple of errors. While Whitworth was able to rally back to within two runs, they did not complete the comeback. In the afternoon game, the Pirates went 6-0 behind the strong pitching of junior Makayla Lefever. Lefever only allowed three baserunners in the game en route to her 12th victory. Sophomore Michelle Silva had a big day at the plate with both a home run and a double in game two. Whitworth (20-9) plays a doubleheader tomorrow to close out the series at Puget Sound. The first game starts at 12 p.m.

Matt Spencer

Staff Writer

 

Whitworth softball battled Bruins over the weekend

Whitworth’s softball team faced off against the George Fox Bruins that knocked them out of the Northwest Conference Tournament last year. The Pirates won two games of the four-game series this weekend and move to 9-3 on the year with a 6-2 conference record. At Saturday’s games it was a pitcher’s duel as the teams combined for five runs in two game. In the first game, an unearned run in the seventh led to the only run in the 1-0 Whitworth loss. Whitworth’s junior pitcher Madi Perez threw a gem allowing only four hits in seven innings of work. But the offense was not able to give Perez run support, as the Pirate stranded seven runners in the game.

Whitworth was able to recover and take the second game of the series 3-1. Junior pitcher Makayla Lefever earned the win by throwing seven strong innings and allowing one earned run on a home run by George Fox’s Courtney Howard.

For the Pirate’s offense in game two, it was sophomore Chelsey Hayes and junior Tessa Matthews who delivered with RBIs in the third and fifth innings, respectively. Throughout Saturday, senior Alyssa Hall provided a spark for the lineup gathering three hits on six at-bats with two bases stolen.

George Fox and Whitworth’s offenses had a busy Sunday. Game three brought 15 baserunners to the plate on 19 combine hits as George Fox came away with the 8-7  win. It was a big day for the Pirate’s Matthews who had a double and a two-run home run in the game.

The Bruins victory was led by seniors Courtney Howard and Kat Hylton who combined for a triple, a home run, four RBIs and five hits.

Game four swung the pendulum back towards the Pirates as Lefever (6-0) picked up her second  complete game shutout of the weekend. With some insurance runs off the bat of sophomore Michelle Silva with a two-run home run, the Pirates were able to even the weekend series at two wins and two losses.

Next week, Whitworth’s softball team (9-3) goes on the road to Willamette University in Salem, Oregon for a four-game series. After the weeknd, the Pirates are tied for second place behind the Pacific Boxers.

 

Matthew Spencer

Staff Writer