SALEM, Va. – Erin Van Nostrand makes the same crack about her Pacific Lutheran University softball team.
“Why make it easy,” the coach says with a chuckle, “when you can make it hard.”
It is because the Lutes can – and they still win. And there was no better example of that than Sunday at the NCAA Division III championships.
It took 12 innings, but PLU advanced to the Softball World Series title game by beating Montclair State University of New Jersey, 2-1.
The Lutes (44-11) will get their first crack at winning the NCAA title at 10:30 a.m. (PDT) today against either Linfield or MSU. Those two schools play in a loser-out game before the PLU game. If the Lutes lose today, they’ll play a winner-take-all game Tuesday.
The hitting star again was Amanda Hall, who laced the winning RBI single over second base with the infield drawn in, scoring Montessa Califano.
The Lutes wore down MSU All-American Alex Hill, who was beaten on her 172nd pitch of the game.
The inning started when Califano singled on a slow grounder to second base and stole second. The Red Hawks bumbled Glenelle Nitta’s sacrifice bunt and the Lutes’ batter was ruled safe at first.
Hill (32-5) intentionally walked PLU’s Stacey Hagensen to load the bases with no outs. Pinch-hitter Ami Gran struck out, bringing up Hall – who got her winning hit on a 1-1 pitch.
“I was looking for something I could hit up the middle, or (hit) the other way,” Hall said.
Hagensen was nothing short of sensational on the mound for the Lutes. She retired the first 11 MSU hitters – and ended it by sending down the final 10.
She allowed four hits and struck out eight. She has a 26-6 record.
“I have seen her when she was just about unhittable – and she was awfully close to that today,” PLU pitching coach Greg Seeley said. “She was really good (on the outside half of the plate). Her curveball was working well, and that is the one pitch she is a little inconsistent with. But when it is working, it is a strikeout pitch.”