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Lutes Beat Huntingdon in Regional Tourney Opener

Kaaren Hatlen (12) is greeted at home plate after her home run.

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TYLER, Texas - Stacey Hagensen threw a one-hitter and Kaaren Hatlen drove in three runs with a double and home run Friday to lead Pacific Lutheran to an 8-0 five-inning victory over Huntington (Ala.) in the opening round of the NCAA Division III Softball Championships Tyler Regional.

The Lutes (38-11), the regional's No. 2 seed, scored five times in the bottom of the fifth inning to beat the No. 7 seed Hawks (28-14) via the run rule that ends a game early when one team leads another by at least eight runs through the fifth inning. PLU has won 13 five-inning run-rule games this season.

Pacific Lutheran advances to the winner's bracket and will play Redlands, a 6-4 victor over Birmingham-Southern, at 3:30 p.m. (CDT) tomorrow. The game had originally been scheduled to start two hours earlier, but tournament administrators moved the schedule back to in order to let the field dry after heavy rainfall in the Tyler area.

PLU is making its first NCAA Division III regional tournament appearance since 2003, and head coach Erin Van Nostrand said her team fought through some early jitters.

"Getting the first win out of the way was huge," PLU head coach Erin Van Nostrand said of her team's tournament-opening victory. "The first couple of innings we didn't play the way we're capable of, but as usual Stacey keeps us in the game and Kaaren puts us on her back for a little bit and we start playing the way we're capable of."

Hagensen, the two-time Northwest Conference Pitcher of the Year, dominated the Hawks on Friday. Mixing several pitches with great effectiveness, she retired the first 10 batters she faced until Jenna Rimensnyder bounced a single through the left side of the infield with one out in the top of the fourth. That, as it turned out, was Huntingdon's only base runner in the game.

Hagensen, who improved her season record to 21-5, walked none and struck out six. Meanwhile, the Lutes played errorless defense behind her.

Hatlen provided the big bat early in the game. After Amanda Goings led off the bottom of the first with a walk and eventually reached third base with two outs, Hatlen ripped a double over Rimensnyder's head in centerfield to put the Lutes on top, 1-0.

"Coming out in the first inning and getting a run on the board - thanks Kaaren - makes it easier to throw because you know you already have a lead," Hagensen said.

In the third inning with Hagensen on first and two out, Hatlen lifted a high fly to left-centerfield that the wind helped carry over the fence. Whether wind-aided or not, Hatlen's 10th homer of the season gave PLU a 3-0 advantage,

While Hagensen continued to mow down the Hawks, Huntingdon pitcher Bree Giordana kept her team in the game into the bottom of the fifth inning. That, however, is when the Lutes scored five times on five hits to end the contest.

Haley Harshaw and Montessa Califano sandwiched singles around an out, and Hagensen followed with a run-scoring single through the middle. Hatlen was intentionally walked to load the bases, and the second run of the inning scored on Amanda Hall's fielder's choice grounder. Katie Lowery followed with a bad hop infield single to make the score 6-0, and after Lindsey Matsunaga walked to load the sacks, Glenelle Nitta met relief pitcher Melissa McClure with a two-run single through the middle of the diamond to end the game.

Pacific Lutheran finished with nine hits, including two from both Hatlen and Nitta. Giordana allowed all eight runs on eight hits and saw her season record fall to 16-8.

- PLU -