Lutes Defeat Bearcats 10-1 to Sweep NWC Series

Perry Van Eckhardt (So., OF, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS)
Perry Van Eckhardt (So., OF, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS)

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director

PARKLAND, Wash. -- Pacific Lutheran University pitcher Cole Johnson threw the first seven innings, allowed just one run, and drove in three runs at the plate, to lead the Lutes to a 10-1 victory over Willamette University on Sunday, March 6 at PLU Field. Johnson went 2 for 3 on offense, helping PLU improve to 9-8 overall, 5-4 in the Northwest Conference. Willamette fell to 8-10 on the season, 3-6 in the NWC.

The Lutes swept the three-game NWC series, allowing just one run in each game. On Saturday, PLU defeated the Bearcats 6-1 and 7-1, avenging a 4-1 loss to the Bearcats in a non-conference game on Feb. 6.

On Sunday, the Lutes held just a 3-1 lead after four and a half innings, but scored twice in the fifth inning and tacked on four runs in the sixth for a 9-1 advantage. The Lutes added the game's final run in the bottom of the eighth.

PLU moved in front in the second inning when Brett Johnson singled, went to second on a wild pitch and advanced the final two bases on a pair of sacrifice bunts. Frank Airey reached first base on a throwing error on the second sacrifice, while Tyler Thompson went to third. The Bearcats turned a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Ben Welch walked to start the bottom of the third for the Lutes. He went to second on a sacrifice by Connor Cantu, who reached first base when the play ended with an error. Drew Oord hit a sacrifice bunt to advance both runners. Welch and Cantu scored on a single through the left side by Landon Packard.

Perry Van Eckhardt (So., CF, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS) scored Willamette's run in the top of the fourth, cutting PLU's lead to 3-1.

With one out and Gordie Clary (Sr., RF/LHP, Vacaville, CA/Vacaville HS) at first following a single, Van Eckhardt hit into a fielder's choice that resulted in an out at second base. Tyler Janitz (Fr., INF, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS) singled to center field to move Van Eckhard to third. Eric Del Prado (So., INF, El Segundo, CA/Loyola HS) earned the RBI with a single up the middle.

Cole Johnson hit an RBI single to drive in Brett Johnson with one of PLU's runs in the fifth. Thompson scored the other run when Kory VanderStaay reached base on a throwing error with two outs.

The Lutes plated four runs on four hits in the sixth. Brett Johnson pounded an RBI double down the left field line, while Cole Johnson blasted a two-run double to center field. Airey brought in the fourth run with a sacrifice fly. In the eighth inning, Packard hit a leadoff triple and scored on a single by Kyler Blades.

Brett Johnson went 3 for 4 during the game with three runs, a double and an RBI. Packard was 3 for 5 with a double and a triple. He scored twice and recorded two RBIs. Cantu scored twice while going 2 for 4.

For the Bearcats, Austin Hagarty (Sr., 2B, Roseville, CA/Woodcreek HS) was 2 for 4. Six other Bearcats earned on hit apiece. Connor Bailey (Fr., OF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) belted a double near to the left field line that almost scored Hagarty from first base with two outs in the third inning, but PLU recorded an out at the plate.

Willamette will host University of Puget Sound in three NWC games next weekend. The Bearcats and the Loggers will play a doubleheader on Saturday, March 12, starting at 11 a.m. (PST). The teams will complete the series with one game on Sunday, March 13 at 12 p.m. (PDT).