Bearcats Score Once in Eighth, Twice in Ninth, to Rally Past Linfield, 4-3

Troy Conway (Jr., 2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS)
Troy Conway (Jr., 2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS)

 By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

McMINNVILLE, Ore. -- Troy Conway (Jr., 2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS) hit a two-run single to right field with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, driving home Aaron Fong (So., SS, Honolulu, HI/Punahou School) and Joseph Faudskar (Fr., OF, Phoenix, AZ/Pinnacle HS) as Willamette University rallied past Linfield College, 4-3, in the first game of a Northwest Conference doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 18. Willamette upped its record to 5-4 on the season, including 1-1 in the NWC. Linfield fell to 3-3 overall, 1-1 in the NWC.

Linfield owned a 3-1 advantage after seven innings, but the Bearcats scored one run in the eighth inning and surged into the lead on Conway's single.

WU starter Matt Steindorf (So., RHP, Granite Bay, CA/Granite Bay HS) pitched a complete game. He allowed eight hits -- six singles -- and struck out five batters with no walks. He improved to 3-0 on the season. Linfield's starter, Cason Cunningham, threw six innings and struck out 12 batters, but did not receive a decision. He allowed just one hit and one run, while walking three Bearcats.

Relief pitcher Ethan Jones, who entered the game with one out and Fong on second in the top of the ninth, took the loss and fell to 0-1.

Willamette scored the game's first run in the top of the third inning. With two outs, Faudskar and Conway walked. Kyle Paguio (So., 3B, Stevenson Ranch, CA/West Ranch HS) reached first on an error by the third baseman, allowing  Faudskar to score, as Conway advanced to second. A strikeout ended the inning.

The Wildcats evened the score in the bottom of the third. Daniel Zavala opened the inning with a single to center field. He moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jared Evans. Zavala scored on a double down the right field line by Brady Rediger.

Linfield gained a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth on a leadoff home run by Kekoa Kaulukukui. With a 1-2 count, Stendorf's fourth pitch was ruled just outside the strike zone. Kaulukukui sent the fifth pitch over the left field fence.

Later in the inning, with Rediger batting and runners at first and third, the Wildcats attempted a double-steal. Colton Robinson was thrown out 2-4-2 on a tag by Cole Pursell (So., C, Oceanside, CA/El Camino HS), who continued on toward third and almost tagged out Evans. Rediger struck out to end the inning.

The Bearcats registered their first hit in the sixth inning when Conway blasted a double to right field to start the stanza. One out later, he went to second on a wild pitch. A pop-up and Cunnningham's final strikeout left Conway stranded at second.

Steindorf gave up one run in the seventh, but escaped a jam to keep Willamette close. Kaulukukui singled and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Robinson. Zavala struck out. Evans singled and moved to second on the throw, as Kaulukukui scored. Rediger hit a single up the middle that Conway kept on thy infield with a diving stop.

While on the ground, Conway threw to first base. Eric Del Prado (Jr., 1B/DH, El Segundo, CA/Loyola HS) stretched to full height and made the grab. Rediger beat the throw, but Del Prado sent the ball to the plate, where Evans was thrown out.

Willamette pulled within 3-2 in the eighth when Conway and Paguio received back-to-back walks with one out. Mason Fessler (Jr., 1B/DH, Woodburn, OR/Blanchet Catholic School) drove in Conway with a two-out single to center field.

In the top of the ninth, Pursell batted first and singled to center. Fong pinch-ran for Pursell. Tyler Janitz (So., SS, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS) provided a sacrifice bunt to send Fong to second. One out later, Fong went to third on a wild pitch. Faudskar walked to put runners at the corners. Conway followed with the go-ahead single.

Conway was 2 for 3 overall with a double, a run scored and two RBIs. Pursell finished 2 for 4.

The Wildcats outhit the Bearcats 8-5. Kaulukukui led the way by going 2 of 4 with a homer, two runs and an RBI. Rediger was 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI. Evans went 2 for 2 and drove in one run.