Wildcats’ names top conference all-star roster

Alex Jensen, Sports Editor

Linfield softball dominated the Northwest Conference all-star conference, with nine players being recognized.

“We are very excited for all of our players that received all-conference recognition – they are all very deserving.  However, individual awards are the direct product of team success and we are extremely proud of the season our team has put together this season and the role every player has filled to get us there,” head coach Jackson Vaughn said.

The Wildcats finished 35-8 overall and 24-4 in the conference. They were able to keep a winning streak of seven games and had a nearly perfect home record. The only game they lost at home was in the Pacific series.

The team battled a rough schedule where they were not able to compete at home until March 17 versus Willamette. For the first month and half of their season the Wildcats were on the road.
The ‘Cats overcame their previous season’s upset at the conference championship when they suffered a back-to-back shutout loss to Pacific Lutheran and George Fox. As a consequence, the NCAA elected not to issue Linfield a regional playoff berth.

The team outperformed last season’s record by winning three more games overall. The Wildcats experience help them prevail this season with six seniors, five juniors and seven sophomores.
Senior outfielder Melanie Oord was named conference player of the year for an impressive offensive season. She ranked in the top 10 in nearly every hitting category. The Player of the Year award is the 10th in program history.

For the third time in her career, senior outfielder Cheyenne Fletcher was named a conference all-star. She has garnered two first-team performances in the past two seasons and a second team in 2016. Fletcher was also named Player of the Year last season.

This spring she hit .396 and scored a conference-best 60 runs. Fletcher had 31 RBI’s with eight homers and a .485 on-base percentage in 144 at-bats. She has played in 188 games at this point in her Linfield career, leading the program in doubles hit (60), tying for sixth-most in program history.

Senior catcher Emily Allen was named a first team NWC all-star for the second time in as many seasons. During the regular season, she hit .430 with 58 hits, 42 RBIs, 47 runs scored, 15 doubles and five home runs. She held a nearly perfect defense record, with just two errors in 188 chances, gaining a fielding percentage of .989. Allen started all 43 games.

“It’s definitely nice to be honored. I love being able to represent Linfield and Catball. I’m so proud to be on a team with such talented, hard working women,” Allen said.

For the second consecutive season, junior pitcher Shelby Saylors is an NWC all-star. Her outstanding performance this past season gained her a first team spot, she was placed on second team in 2017. Saylor threw the most innings of any NWC pitcher this season with 158.1, having a 3.09 ERA and a 20-5 record in 24 starts. She struck out 77 batters.

Sophomore infielder Makenna Clizer picked up a first team all-conference recognition after owning a .967 fielding percentage. She only committed four errors in 123 chances. Clizer hit .380 with 13 doubles, six homers and 18 runs scored on 46 hits.

Leading the conference with 28 steals, senior outfielder Jacinda Swiger, was named to the second team. She hit a .394 percentage with 54 hits, 37 runs scored and three triples. Swiger walked 20 times, adding to her .475 on-base percentage record. She was nearly perfect defensively on 62 chances. Swiger also noted an honorable mention all-conference a year ago.

Junior outfielder Darian Stedman received her second all-star recognition in three years. She was named to the second team all-NWC. She had personal bests with 45 RBIs, 30 runs scored and a .557 slugging percentage. Stedman hit .295 with 36 hits and smacked eight home runs with an equal number of doubles.

Sophomores Paige Smotherman and Chelsea Horita received NWC honorable mentions. Smotherman hit .298 with three homers and 15 RBIs. First-year starter Horita slammed six homers, 40 hits and seven doubles.

After an outstanding season sweeping to the regional championships, the team awaits its destination in the NCAA Division III tournament. The regional playoff sites and matchups will be announced on May 7 at 10 a.m. on ncaa.com.