Softball 'Cats win highly anticipated rematch
Lisa “Yams” Yamamoto and McKenna “Ken-Ken” Spieth, both sophomores, are earning their place in Linfield softball’s championship-littered lineup. Saturday was the Wildcats’ much-anticipated first meeting with Pacific Lutheran since the Lutes defeated Linfield in the nation championship game.
Along with Yamamoto’s offense, Linfield (22-5, 14-2) swept Pacific Lutheran (17-11, 10-6) in Saturday’s doubleheader with an 8-6 win in the first game and 5-2 in the second.
The Wildcats went 2-7 against the Lutes last year, and their last win against Pacific Lutheran came April 22, 2012, a 3-2 win.
Saturday was also Senior Day. The Wildcats do have two more home games on the schedule (April 10 vs. Willamette), but Linfield designated Saturday as the official day to have it on a weekend. Karleigh Prestianni, Rachelle Ridout, and Megan Wallo were all honored, but Senior Day was outshined by Linfield sophomores Yamamoto, Spieth and Erin Carson.
Pacific Lutheran grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning on a two-run homerun from Amanda Hall. Linfield responded in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single by Ashley Garcia that scored Yamamoto, who reached on a double earlier in the inning.
“We have a lot of history with them, and it’s always a good game,” Prestianni said. “We knew that whoever came out and had a better start was going to win these games, and I think that we did that.”
The ’Cats really took over the game in the second inning. Linfield put together a six-hit, five-run inning to take a commanding 7-2 lead. Spieth started the run with an RBI triple, and Yamamoto put the exclamation point on the inning by belting a solo homerun to center field for her second hit of the afternoon.
Yamamoto said she was looking for the right opportunity and pitch to hit.
“Honestly, I was just looking for a good pitch to hit,” Yamamoto recalls of her homerun at bat. “I was actually down a strike and figured I’d get a good pitch to hit, and I just went for it.”
She wasn’t done yet. Yamamoto added two singles before the game was over to bring her hit total to four. Spieth also added a single for her second hit of the day.
The Lutes made their way back with two runs in the third, and both teams traded run in the fifth, but Karina Paavola and Montana McNealy combined in the circle to close the door on Pacific Lutheran in game one.
“We know PLU is always a great game for us,” Spieth said. “It’s always exciting, and they bring the best out of us. Today I was able to open up in the box, and practice has helped with that.”
Sophomores Yamamoto and Spieth continued to impress in the second game, as they both kept pace with their mentor, Prestianni.
Spieth and Yamamoto combined for three hits, while Prestianni had two hits, giving her a total of five.
The Wildcats put together five runs on 10 hits in game two to beat The Lutes. The ’Cats had a 5-0 lead going to the seventh inning.
A pair of hits from the Lutes, along with two Linfield errors, allowed Pacific Lutheran to score both runs, but with runners on the corners, freshman Maddy Dunn came in with two outs and shut down the Lutes’ comeback.
“We feel we didn’t play as well the last couple times we played them,” Linfield coach Jackson Vaughan said. “We just kept stressing that we had to play better, and we certainly did that today.”
The big moment of the game was in Linfield’s fourth inning. Spieth and Prestianni led the surge. Spieth gave the Wildcats a two-run double. With Spieth on second, Prestianni came to the plate. Prestianni swung at the first pitch and hammered the ball to deep center field that hit midway up the roof of the center field groundskeeping shed for a two-run homerun that gave Linfield a 5-0 lead.
Prestianni finished with five hits and three RBIs. Her .426 career batting average, and .793 slugging percentage rank third in Linfield history. Her .508 on-base percentage ranks second in school history. She had a crucial homerun and a .611 batting average in the 2012 national championship game against Pacific Lutheran last May.
As for “Yams” and “Ken-Ken,” while Prestianni’s regular season career is winding down, their work is continuing on. The two said Prestianni has spent quality time over the last two years working with them, and Prestianni said their work ethic has been incredible.
“Those girls came in last year and just worked their butts off,” Prestianni said. “All summer, all they did was work, and they are so much better, and they’ll just keep getting better.”
The trio of seniors mean even more to the two sophomores. Spieth and Yamamoto both said Prestianni, Ridout, and Wallo have spent a lot time mentoring them, and said they are doing all they can to live up to the championship legacy.
“You can’t not want to come out here and give it all you can for them,” Spieth said. “They’ve done so much for us, we try to keep up with that the best we can.”
Yamamoto added” “They’re very inspirational. They just work so hard, and they leave everything out on the field.”
Vaughan said he is excited for the future with Spieth, Yamamoto and others underclassmen that are beginning to define their roles with the team. Both Yamamoto and Spieth played limited roles with Linfield last season, but Vaughan also cited their work ethic, and said he’s been impressed with their willingness to sacrifice
Yamamoto and Spieth combined for nine hits and five RBIs Saturday.
Linfield plays six games on the road in the span of five days, starting at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Willamette.
“Both of them have changed positions with us,” Vaughan said. “They’re both big hits waiting to happen, and teams don’t know when they’re coming.”