Softball wins first two in Whitworth series

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Maddie Loverich, Sports Editor

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Linfield secured two wins against Whitworth University on a sunny Saturday afternoon in McMinnville. Senior Maddy Podnar picked up her third win on the mound, throwing a career-best nine strikeouts in the first game of the day. 

“It felt really good to get the win today, especially against a conference opponent,” said Podnar. “It was cool to get a career high number of strikes, but there are definitely still a lot of improvements to make. The bullpen has been working really hard and nursing some injuries, so it was awesome to see some people get in and make the most of it.”

Game one 

Podnar started strong in the circle for the ‘Cats, striking out five in the first two innings. She threw nine total strikeouts on the day, surpassing her existing 2021 season-high five strikeouts in a win over Bushnell University in February. 

The Wildcats racked up six hits and the Pirates had nine, with scoring powered entirely by two home runs in an impressive offensive effort from Whitworth junior Maddy Thomas.

The Wildcats loaded the bases in the bottom of the first, but a solo center field home run from Thomas put the Pirates on the board first in the top of the second inning. 

Two quick infield errors in the bottom of the second put Wildcat runners on base. Fifth year Kelsey Wilkinson doubled to score both and fifth year Kamryn Apling added a single to drive in Wilkinson, giving the Wildcats a 3-1 lead. 

Linfield advanced their lead to 6-1 in the fourth when a bunt from Wilkinson scored sophomore Haley Gutierrez, a throwing error brought in sophomore Chloe McDaniel and a sacrifice fly brought in Wilkinson. 

Whitworth’s Thomas homered again in the fifth, scoring three and narrowing the Wildcat lead to 6-4. Thomas was credited with all four Whitworth RBIs in the first game. 

Junior Katrina Johns singled up the middle in the bottom of the sixth to add two RBIs and sophomore Emma Podliska doubled to bring in Johns, bringing the final score 9-4.

Game two
Tayah Kelley, two-time 2021 NWC Pitcher of the Week, started on the second game on the mound for Linfield. Kelley received the second NWC honor this week after an eight strikeout performance against Pacific Lutheran University last Saturday, which brought her to four wins on the season. 

Whitworth struck first again, scoring on a single. With the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the first, a double in the gap by senior Brynn Radke added two more RBIs to bring the Pirates to a quick 3-0. 

A bases-loaded single from Johns put the Wildcats on the board 3-2 in the third, but a Linfield error in the fifth brought in another run to extend the Pirate’s lead to 4-2. 

A run-scoring single from junior Abi Proffitt started a rally for the Wildcats in the bottom of the sixth. Freshman Jenny Ball, in her first plate appearance of the season, hit a long double to the fence to score the go-ahead run for the Wildcats. 

The ‘Cats held their lead to finish the game with a narrow lead of 5-4. 

Sophomore Jordan Bennett closed the game for Linfield, throwing one strikeout and holding the Pirates scoreless in the final two innings.