NAIA DISTRICT 3 SOFTBALL TOURNAMENT : Cal Lutheran Armed With Strong Pitching
Cal Lutheran will rely on the one-two pitching punch of Dee Andra Pilkington and Leslie Stevens in seeking its third consecutive appearance in the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics softball finals.
Pilkington (15-6, 1.04 earned-run average), a senior right-hander, and Stevens (12-4, 1.46 ERA), a junior right-hander, give Cal Lutheran an unusually deep and well-balanced staff.
“That’s one of the advantages we’ll have going into this district (playoff) is that both pitchers’ arms are not tired,” Cal Lutheran Coach Tony Venditto said. “We can play back to back (or) we can play two or three games in one day and not hurt us.”
The Regals (29-10-2, 14-2 in district play) are making their sixth consecutive appearance in the District 3 championships, which begin today at Cal Lutheran.
Pilkington, an All-American last season, will open the first game of the two-team, best-of-three series against Cal Baptist (23-22, 9-8) at 11 a.m. Stevens, who has won her past nine decisions, will pitch the second game, which will start 30 minutes after the completion of the first. Pilkington will return for a third game, if necessary, at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Stevens was named District 3 Player of the Week after going nine for 25 in six games last week. She is batting .328 this season. Pilkington, earlier named District Pitcher of the Week, and Stevens are the only two Cal Lutheran players to receive either district honor this season.
The District 3 champion will travel to play the winner of District 7, probably either Western New Mexico State or Mesa State (Colo.), in a best-of-three bi-district tournament, May 10-11. The winner moves on to the 16-team nationals, May 17-19 at the University of West Florida in Pensacola.
Cal Lutheran’s past two trips to the nationals, a double-elimination tournament, ended quickly with consecutive losses both years, but first-year coach Venditto believes that past is not necessarily prologue for his 14th-ranked Regals.
“We have really what I call a three-step goal to win districts, to win bi-districts and go to nationals,” said Venditto. “I honestly believe we can finish in the top four of nationals.”
Cal Lutheran has won all four meetings with Cal Baptist.
Kim White leads the team in 10 offensive categories, including batting average (.391). After playing center field and second base, White has moved to third base to replace Tina Bumgarner, the team leader in runs batted in (25) who suffered a season-ending knee injury.