No. 3-ranked Linfield (Ore.) tops No. 25 Ohio Northern in Game 1 of NCAA III Softball World Series

No. 3-ranked Linfield (Ore.) tops No. 25 Ohio Northern in Game 1 of NCAA III Softball World Series

By Tim Glon

| NCAA Tournament Site |

Salem, Va. -- No. 3 Linfield (Ore.) collected 14 hits and took advantage of five errors to down No. 25 Ohio Northern 9-5 in Game 1 of the NCAA III Softball Championships Friday morning at Moyer Park.

The Wildcats (43-5) advance to the winner's bracket semifinals to face the winner of Friday's second game between No. 4 Pacific Lutheran (Wash.) and No. 6 Luther (Iowa) Saturday at 4 pm.

The Polar Bears (31-13) fall to the loser's bracket and will face the loser of Friday's second game between No. 4 Pacific Lutheran (Wash.) and No. 6 Luther (Iowa) in an elimination game Saturday at 11 am.

Junior Ashley Sujkowski and sophomore Christin Miller each had three hits to lead Ohio Northern's 13-hit attack.

The Polar Bears had plenty of opportunities to score, but left 12 runners in base in the contest while scoring just five runs.

"I think we had first game jitters early on," ONU head coach Kim Burke said. "We struggled, but settled down and played well the rest of the way. I was proud of the was we battled back and stayed in the game. We are just in another tournament now and need to come out tomorrow, relax and play well."

Linfield scored four times in the top of the second inning, using four base hits, three stolen bases and two errors to score four runs and take a 4-0 lead.

In the second frame, Sujkowski and freshman Adianan Sikora had back-to-back singles to put runners at the corners, but the Polar Bears would not score.

The Polar Bears got on the board in the bottom of the third when Miller led off with a single, advanced to second on a double by freshman Kelly Sheridan and scored on a RBI ground out by senior Cassie Gaye.

Linfield extended its lead by batting around in the top of the fifth inning, sending nine batters to the plate while scoring 4 runs.

Emilee Lepp hit a solo home run to left center field, her 15th of the season, to lead off the inning and give Linfield a 5-1 lead in the top of the fifth.

Later in the inning, Haylie Watson had a 2-out, 2-run single  to give the Wildcats a 7-1 lead and double just past the diving sophomore Colleen Baliga in left field by Jordan Mixsell made it an 8-1 game.

Linfield scored again in the top of the sixth to go up 9-1.

"We were just nervous," ONU junior pitcher Abbey Bensing said. "I felt confident that we would settle down and play better. Our defense was outstanding in the Regionals and I know we have a good defensive team."

Northern avoided the NCAA's 8-run rule by scoring twice in the bottom of the sixth.

Senior Katie Cretin led off ONU's 5-hit bottom of the sixth with a single. Sujkowski and senior Lisa Light added base hits to lead the bases.

Miller drove in a run with a tapper back to the mound and Miller singled home Sujkowski with a single to center to make it a 9-3 game with just one out, but ONU would leave the bases loaded to end the threat.

Gaye led off the bottom of the seventh with a double to left center field and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Sujkowski.

An infield single by Miller scored Cretin and ONU pulled within 9-5.

"We knew we were better than that (9-1)," Miller said. "We kept hitting the ball and I was confident that we would get some runs. We are excited about the rest of the tournament. We love playing this game and do not want the season to end tomorrow."

Bensing (12-7) took the loss for ONU, while Karina Paavola (23-2) earned the win for Linfield.