Last season, Pacific Lutheran felt a little left out, but this year the Lutes made up for lost time and are now headed to the NCAA Division III Softball College World Series.
The Lutes downed UT Tyler 4-0 Monday afternoon in the championship round of the NCAA Tyler Regional tournament, shutting out the Patriots for only the second time this year. The Washington university’s starting pitcher Stacey Hagensen allowed four hits in a complete-game effort. She earned the win in all four of the Lutes’ games and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
“Stacey is our heart and soul,” Lutes head coach Erin Van Norstrand said. “She’s an amazing kid and I couldn’t be happier for her.”
The Patriots were attempting to earn back-to-back World Series appearances; and their third bid in four years. Last year, UT Tyler finished third in the nation.
Hagensen and Patriots’ starter Heather Abshire took control from the circle to start the game and kept things scoreless for the first two innings. Both teams combined for one hit in the contest’s opening two innings.
Pacific Lutheran posted the first runs of the game in the third inning after a single by Haley Harshaw and two errors. Harshaw scored the game’s first run from second on a throwing error. Montessa Califano, who grounded the ball to Patriots’ third basemen Ashley Endsley, moved to third on a separate error.
Glenelle Nitta followed Califano and laid down a successful squeeze bunt to score Califano. Nitta later scored the inning’s final run on a double by Amanda Hall.
Pacific Lutheran added their fourth run in the fourth inning on a ground out. Lindsey Matsunaga singled to lead off the inning, advanced to second on a sacrifice, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on an Amanda Goings ground ball to first.
UT Tyler threatened in the fifth and seventh inning. The Patriots put runners at first and second with no outs in the bottom of the fifth, but a fly out and a double play ended the inning.
Their final push came in the final frame when the Patriots loaded the bases after a double by Endsley, who recorded three of the Patriots’ four hits, and two hit batters. Carli Wheeler stepped in as the tying run with two outs, but went down on a called third strike to end the game.
“It was a hard-fought game,” Patriots’ head coach Mike Reed said. “I thought it came down to the two best teams and you have to give a lot of credit to them. (Hagensen) threw an outstanding game.”
Abshire, who took the loss despite allowing only one earned run, allowed five hits in seven innings of work and finished the tournament with a 0.68 ERA. She was named to the regional all-tournament team, along with teammates Katelyn Thomason and Ashlee Johnson.
UT Tyler finishes their season 39-9 on the season and the American Southwest Conference champions.
Califano, Hall and Kaaren Hatlen also received all-tournament honors with teammate Hagensen, who pitched 27 innings in the tournament and recorded a 0.52 ERA.
“It was a team effort,” Hagensen said. “My pitching coach has been telling me ‘think black’ and that was my focus all tournament long and just hitting my spots.”
Pacific Lutheran will join defending national champion and conference rival Linfield, Ohio Northern, Luther, Plattsburgh State, Montclair State, Roanoke and Tufts on May 18-22 in Salem, Va. for the Softball College World Series. The Lutes are set to face Luther in the first round May 18. Linfield and Northern Ohio open the World Series at 11 a.m. May 18.
2012 NCAA Regional Tournament, Championship Round
UT Tyler Softball Field, Tyler
No. 4 Pacific Lutheran 4, No. 7 UT Tyler 0
PLU 003 100 0 – 4 5 0
UTT 000 000 0 – 0 4 3
Stacey Hagensen and Katie Lowery. Heather Abshire and Chandler McCrury. W – Hagensen (4-0) L – Abshire (3-1). LOB – Pacific Lutheran 4, UT Tyler 5. DP – Pacific Lutheran 2. E – Ashlee Johnson (2), Ashley Endsley. 2B – Amanda Hall; Ashley Endsley. SHB – Glenelle Nitta, Haley Harshaw. HBP – Brittney Batten (2), Rachel Howell. CS – Jessica Ross.
Umpires: HP – Leah Bowen; 1B – Tim Ellis; 3B – Marvin Cobb.
Game Time – 1:52