By Blake Lepire
With another successful weekend, the Willamette softball team’s winning streak is up to seven, launching the Bearcats into Northwest Conference Championship contention.
The team won two consecutive games on Saturday over George Fox University and came back on Sunday to snag a pair of victories from Pacific University, improving its conference record to 8-5.
“Our team feels on top of the world,” freshman pitcher Jade Smith said. “We now know what we can do when we come together as a team and play quality softball.”
The Bearcats trailed 1-0 in the first game after George Fox scored in the bottom of the first inning, but they responded in the second inning after a two-out RBI triple by freshman outfielder Myranda Ramirez.
A few innings later in the fifth, the Bearcats exploded with four runs behind a two RBI single by sophomore second baseman Ashley Pender, and a two-run home run by junior catcher Amanda Absher.
That 5-1 lead was more than enough run support for Smith.
After giving up a run in the first inning, Smith tranquilized the Bruin offense. She held George Fox scoreless through the final six innings while ending the game with four strikeouts.
Leading 5-1, Willamette scored four more runs in the seventh, solidifying the 9-1 victory.
In the second game of the doubleheader, sophomore pitcher Victoria Bradshaw took to the mound and continued the Bearcat pitching dominance.
The offense scored a run in the top of the first inning after junior first baseman Heather Winslow led off the game with a single to center field, stole second base and scored on an RBI single by Pender.
That one run proved to be enough, as Bradshaw pitched a complete game shutout, yielding just three hits. Nevertheless, the Bearcats added two insurance runs in the later innings for the 3-0 win.
“I felt extremely confident on the mound. It’s a great feeling to know that your team is there to back you up no matter what, and that’s exactly how I felt with my defense,” Bradshaw said.
On Sunday’s game against Pacific, Smith picked up in the circle right where she left off the day before.
The Bearcats scored in the first inning after a base hit by Pender and once again, that would be all they needed to secure their victory. Smith threw a complete game, striking out five batters while scattering six hits and allowing zero walks.
The Bearcat offense added one run in the third and fourth innings, and two more runs in the sixth to end up with a 5-0 victory.
Winslow continued her hitting dominance by going 2-2 in the game, while Pender added two hits and a RBI of her own.
In the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader, Willamette University fell behind 1-0 in the first inning after Bradshaw surrendered an unearned run.
The Bearcats didn’t let the deficit last long, scoring one run on a fielding error and another on a sacrifice fly by junior catcher Erin Norris to take a 2-1 lead.
Giving up the one first-inning run, Bradshaw zoned in throughout the final six innings, striking out six while permitting only one additional run. The ‘Cats extended their lead to in the fifth on an RBI single by Winslow to ensure the 3-2 victory and doubleheader sweep.
“As a team right now we have really good chemistry,” Bradshaw said. “We have really been focusing on winning games as a team and not as individuals. We’ve had a lot of momentum in these last couple of games, and we hope to continue that momentum into our future conference games.”