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Pacific softball gets historic sweep of No. 17 Linfield

Boxers take both ends of a doubleheader against their NWC rivals for the first time since 1998


For years, the Pacific softball team has played second fiddle to rival and perennial Northwest Conference powerhouse Linfield.

On Sunday, the Boxers flipped that script.

For the first time in nearly two decades, Pacific swept a softball doubleheader against Linfield, edging the 17th-ranked Wildcats 1-0 in a tense game one, then surging to a 3-1 victory in game two on Ashley Mitchell’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the eighth inning.

“Those were two pretty good wins for us,” Pacific head coach Liz Yandall said. “Any time you beat Linfield twice in a row you have to have an appreciation for it. They’ve been at the top of the conference for a long time.

“I’m just so excited for the girls. They’re playing some pretty good softball right now.”

The two wins were historic for the Boxers, who hadn’t swept a series against Linfield since 1998 and hadn’t won a game against the Wildcats since 2009, snapping a 26-game losing streak against their NWC rivals.

Sunday’s heroics were provided by Mitchell and Forest Grove High School grad Marissa Reichard, who pitched a complete game shutout in the opener and also scored the game’s only run. She laced a one-out single in the bottom of the first, stole second base, moved to third on a wild pitch and then came home on an RBI single from Mitchell.

That was all the support Reichard needed, as she tossed a two-hit shutout while facing two batters over the minimum.

“Marissa threw one heck of a game each day this weekend,” Yandall said, referring also to a 2-0 victory over Willamette on Saturday in which Reichard tossed a four-hit shutout.

Game two was even more dramatic, with neither team scratching out a run in regulation. Pacific junior Jessica Hotaling was every bit as sharp as Reichard in the pitcher’s circle, tossing seven shutout innings before a pair of defensive errors allowed Linfield to seize a 1-0 lead in the top of the eighth.

Undaunted, the Boxers mounted a rally in the bottom of the inning, beginning with a one-out double from Hotaling. Quirena Natividad followed with a double that scored Hotaling and tied the game, bringing Mitchell to the plate with one out and the winning run on third base.

The junior worked the count full against Linfield pitcher Maddy Dunn before launching a two-run home run into the netting above the left-centerfield fence at Sherman-Larkins Stadium for a thrilling 3-1 Pacific victory.

“It was crazy,” Yandall said of the scene after Mitchell’s game-winning blast. “We have it on video and the girls were just bouncing out of the dugout. It was pretty exciting.”

The wins vaulted Pacific into second place in the conference standings at 13-5 overall and 6-2 in NWC play. George Fox currently leads the conference at 7-1, while the Boxers sit in a tie with Whitworth.

Pacific will travel to Spokane this weekend for a four-game series against the Pirates that will go a long way toward determining the NWC pecking order.

“The Spokane trip is always a tough one,” Yandall said. “We’re just trying to take it one pitch at a time and not look too far ahead. Every game is an important game, so we’re treating these games the same as every other game this season.

“We’re going to work really hard in practice this week, then we’ll get on the bus on Friday and see what happens.”

Pacific also sweeps NWC weekly awards

For their pivotal roles in last weekend’s sweep of rival Linfield, plus a pair of victories against Willamette, two Pacific softball players have been honored by the Northwest Conference.

Marissa Reichard was named the NWC Pitching Student-Athlete of the Week for the second time this season after tossing a pair of complete game shutouts, and Ashley Mitchell earned NWC Position Student-Athlete of the Week honors after driving in the winning run in three of Pacific’s four victories over the weekend.

Reichard, a 2012 Forest Grove High School graduate, led Pacific to a pair of wins last weekend, starting with a four-hit shutout against Willamette on Saturday. In that game she struck out six batters in a 2-0 victory, and she followed that up on Sunday with a two-hit shutout against 17th-ranked Linfield, which snapped a 26-game losing streak against the Wildcats.

In her two pitching appearances, Reichard allowed only two hits with runners on base and did not surrender an extra-base hit. Across the NWC, Reichard boasts the league’s lowest ERA at 0.56, and she is fourth in wins, strikeouts and batting average against.

Mitchell was equally impressive at the plate last weekend. She homered in both wins over Willamette on Saturday, finishing the afternoon with six hits and five RBIs. On Sunday, she singled in the winning run in a 1-0 victory over Linfield before hitting a walk-off homer in the eighth inning of the nightcap for a 3-1 win and a sweep of the Wildcats.

Mitchell batted .615 over the weekend with eight hits, a double and three home runs, while driving in eight runs and posting a slugging percentage of 1.385. She leads the NWC with five home runs and 25 RBIs so far this season.

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