Bruins settle for second at NWC tourney
After a breakout campaign netted the George Fox softball team a share of its first-ever Northwest Conference title and the right to host the league tournament, the Bruins were looking to add another first, an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III national Championships, over the weekend.
A 9-1 loss to perennial league standard bearer Linfield in the final Sunday means GFU coach Jessica Hollen and crew will have to wait at least another year to pull off that feat, but it may not have doomed their tournament hopes for this season.
"We wanted the automatic bid, but at the same time, we think that our entire schedule we still have a decent shot at getting an at-large bid," Hollen said. "So we're just hopeful and kind of waiting until May 7 and we find out."
The Bruins did set school records with 33 wins overall and a 22-4 mark in league play during the regular season and were ranked No. 14 nationally entering the NWC tournament, so there is certainly reason to be optimistic GFU can earn an at-large bid like it did in 2016.
Things weren't looking so good one game into the tournament, however, as No. 4 seed Pacific pounded the Bruins 10-2 on Friday afternoon. The Boxers pounded out 14 hits overall and drove ace Madison Sorenson from the game after hitting three home runs in the first four innings to stake a 6-2 lead.
The George Fox bats were unusually quiet, too, as Pacific starter Erin Schick allowed just five hits.
"It wasn't how we wanted it to go, but at the same time, Pacific played very well," Hollen said. "We tip our caps because they did a very good job."
The Bruins rebounded Saturday with a 10-3 win over No. 3 seed Whitworth to stay alive in the tournament. Sorenson was back to her usual self, allowing three runs on seven hits in seven innings. The offense finally got humming, as well, posting 12 hits.
It was a similar story in the rematch versus Pacific Saturday evening, as Sorenson went the distance again, this time allowing three hits in a 7-2 victory.
"After Friday, Maddie turned around and threw two great games for us on Saturday," Hollen said. "Offensively, we kind of woke up a little bit more, so we definitely put ourselves in a position to at least be there on Sunday."
George Fox needed to beat No. 16 Linfield twice on Sunday to claim the tournament crown, but the Wildcats scored in each of the first four innings to pull ahead 7-1. The Bruins managed just two hits off starter Shelby Saylors and Abbie Bergerson was unable to fend off the Wildcat bats, giving up seven runs on 11 hits in four innings to take the loss.
"They outperformed us on the mound," Hollen said of Linfield. "They outperformed us defensively, as we made a couple of errors. They outperformed us offensively. They went and won that game."
The Bruins (35-9) entered the weekend ranked No. 3 in the NCAA West Region, while Linfield (35-8) was fourth, but will have to wait two weeks to learn if they will get an at-large bid. After taking finals this week, the team will resume practice next week and hope for the best.
"We'll prepare as though we're going to get great news on May 7," Hollen said. "So we'll make sure we're ready to go. I think this break and having a couple days off and being able to recover will be great for them."