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WOU Softball in First, Named Team of the Week
Western Oregon awaits the arrival of Ashlie Gardner (9) at home plate, after her home run in the bottom of the sixth capped a 4-0 win over Central Washington on Sunday.
Western Oregon awaits the arrival of Ashlie Gardner (9) at home plate, after her home run in the bottom of the sixth capped a 4-0 win over Central Washington on Sunday.
WOU junior Jourdan Williams at the plate, sporting pink socks as the Wolves supported cancer awareness during their latest home stand.
WOU junior Jourdan Williams at the plate, sporting pink socks as the Wolves supported cancer awareness during their latest home stand.

Monday, March 24, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. – Known for her offensive prowess as the Great Northwest Athletic Conference softball leader in hits (44), doubles (11) and RBI (30), it was a top shelf defensive effort by Western Oregon junior center fielder Amanda Evola that gave the Wolves a spark on Saturday against Saint Martin’s.

“Amanda saved us on Friday against SMU with that diving catch,” WOU head coach Lonny Sargent commented on Evola’s leap into right-center field to rob SMU’s Taviah Jenkins of an extra base hit. “It’s the little things like that which spark the team and get them going, and the kids really love following her as a leader.” 

The defensive effort preserved WOU’s 4-2 lead over the Saints, and WOU went on not only to beat SMU twice, but to win three of four games overall on the weekend. The Wolves have now won 11 of their last 12 games, and have been named the GNAC Team of the Week.

Fueling WOU offensively was co-Red Lion Player of the Week Raina Reece, who launched three home runs and drove in 10 on the weekend.

After beating SMU 6-2 in both games on Friday, WOU snapped its 10-game winning streak with a difficult 3-2 loss to Central Washington in Game 1 on Sunday.

“The loss to CWU was a bit of a downer for us, but we just tried to keep our players going heading into the final game,” Sargent said of his team’s first loss since March 4. “Being able to bounce back and win the next game was a huge success, and we can really tell that this group enjoys playing the game and being around each other.”

The Wolves refused to let the defeat get to them, as pitcher Kelli Demianew took to the circle for Game 2 and tamed the Wildcats with a shutout. A 3-run home run from Reece in the third was all the firepower WOU needed to secure the win, and Ashlie Gardner tacked on a solo shot in the bottom of the sixth for good measure.

“We went into the weekend knowing that all four games were going to be tough, and that we had to be as prepared as we possibly could,” Sargent said regarding facing the two teams picked to finish in first and second in the GNAC preseason coaches’ poll. “Both teams are extremely well-coached and we knew it would be a big challenge for us, but our kids were excited to be playing at home.” 

The key to WOU’s first-place 9-1 record in GNAC play this season has been a balance between top talent at the plate and in the circle for the Wolves. In addition to her defensive ability, Evola is the second-leading hitter in the GNAC at .423. Joining her in the top-5 among conference leaders are Melanie Pfeiffer (.413) and Kelsie Gardner (.404), who anchor WOU’s lineup.

“Having those three at the top of our lineup really gives our team a spark,” Sargent said. “Melanie and Kelsie playing in the middle of our infield has been phenomenal as well, as they have gotten us out of some huge holes with big double plays.” 

Damianew leads the GNAC in ERA at 1.96, and uses her ability to pitch to contact and find holes in hitters’ swings to consistently baffle opposing lineups. “Kelli is such a hard worker and is a quiet and stoic leader,” Sargent said regarding the junior right-hander. “She has laser-like focus and is able to take advantage of hitters’ weaknesses. She is a great spot pitcher.”

After its second home stand of the season, the Wolves kick off another lengthy road trip as their next games in Monmouth are scheduled for April 26.

Facing WOU this week are the Crusaders of Northwest Nazarene and a tough road trip to Nampa. “The biggest thing for us is knowing that NNU is playing a lot better this year and they have improved a ton,” Sargent said regarding his team’s next opponent. “Coach Wagner has done a great job over there, and we need to prepare to play to the best of our ability in order to be successful.”

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