By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
ADAIR VILLAGE, Ore. -- Willamette University rallied to win the first game, 4-3, and Pacific University rallied to take the second game, 5-4 in 11 innings, as the Bearcats and the Boxers split a doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 25 at Santiam Christian School.
Willamette trailed 2-1 entering the bottom of the seventh inning in the opener, but scored twice in the seventh and once in the eighth on its way to a 4-3 win. Troy Conway (Jr., 2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS) was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to send home the tying run in the seventh. Two outs later, Mason Fessler (Jr., 1B/DH, Woodburn, OR/Blanchet Catholic School) walked with the bases loaded to bring in the go-ahead run.
Tyler Janitz (So., SS, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS) scored an insurance run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the eighth for a 4-2 lead. The Boxers scored once in the top of the ninth.
In the second game, Pacific trailed 4-2 after six innings, but scored twice in the seventh to tie the score. The Boxers eventually won on a solo homer by Kurtis Kloke in the top of the 11th inning.
Willamette ended the day at 7-5 on the season, 3-2 in the Northwest Conference. Pacific moved to 8-3 overall 3-2 in the NWC. The final game of the series will be played at Roy Helser Field on the Linfield College campus on Sunday, Feb. 26. The game may start as early as 3:30 p.m. (PST) and no later than 4 p.m.
The series is being played at neutral sites because of wet grounds at John Lewis Field following significant rainfall this month. The fields at Santiam Christian and Linfield are artificial turf.
Bearcats Win First Game, 4-3
Willamette took a 1-0 lead in the first inning of the day. Conway recorded an infield hit to shortstop to start the stanza. he went to second on a wild pitch and then Cameron Igarashi (Jr., OF, Honolulu, HI/Mid-Pacific Institute) walked. Connor Bailey (So., OF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) moved Conway to third with a fielder's choice, as Igarashi was thrown out at second.
Fessler walked to load the bases. Jack Brett (Jr., C, Aurora, CO/Regis Jesuit HS) grounded out to the first baseman to drive Conway across the plate.
Pacific answered with a run in the top of the second. Kloke singled to center field and advanced to third on a single by Joey Galeno. Kloke scored on a groundout by Ben Roquet. Two more groundouts ended the threat.
The score remained 1-1 through six innings, as starting pitchers Matt Steindorf (So., RHP, Granite Bay, CA/Granite Bay HS) of Willamette and Paul Wolfram of Pacific kept the offensive units in check.
In the top of the seventh, the Boxers took a 2-1 lead. With one out Austin Amundson singled up the middle. Pinch-runner Dante Filippini reached second and third on an error, when a grounder by Charlie Dietrich got through Conway at second base. Filippini scored when Eli Wisdom hit into a fielder's choice, with Dietrich out at second. Wisdom stole second, but was later picked off for the third out.
The Bearcats tallied two runs in the bottom of the seventh on just one hit.
Janitz singled through the right side and Perry Van Eckhardt (Jr., CF, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS) walked. Kyle Paguio (So., 3B, Stevenson Ranch, CA/West Ranch HS) was hit by a pitch to load the bases. After a pitching change, reliever Cody Ahlgrimm hit Conway with a pitch, driving in Janitz with the tying run. Van Eckhardt scored with two outs on a walk issued to Fessler.
With one out in the top of the eighth, Janitz walked and stole second base. After Van Eckhardt also walked, Paguio provided a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners. Janitz scored on a wild pitch.
Steindorf went seven innings for the Bearcats and improved to 4-0 on the season. He allowed just two runs -- one earned -- and gave up only four hits -- all singles. He registered five strikeouts and had two walks. Reliever Jett Gallagher (Jr., RHP, Santa Cruz, CA/Santa Cruz HS) pitched the final two innings and recorded his second save. Wolfram fell to 3-1 with his first loss for Pacific.
Each team finished the game with five hits by five players. Eric Del Prado (Jr., 1B/DH, El Segundo, CA/Loyola HS) of WU pounded out the game's only double. Other Bearcats with a hit were Janitz, Conway, Bailey and Brett. Janitz was 1 for 2 with a walk and two runs. He also earned two putouts and four assists with solid play on defense.
Pacific Evens Series with 5-4 Win in Extra Innings
As in the first game, Wilalmette put up a run in the first inning of the second game. With one out, Paguio walked. Paguio reached second by beating the throw on an attempted 4-6-3 double play on a grounder by Bailey. The Boxers did throw out Bailey at the end of the play. Fessler followed with an RBI single down the right field line.
The Boxers tallied two runs in the top of the fourth. Pacific recorded three hits during the inning. Both runs scored on a bases-loaded single to right field by Josh Keithly.
Willamette countered with three runs in its next at bat. Del Prado walked to begin the inning. Cole Pursell (So., C, Oceanside, CA/El Camino HS) batted next and singled. Prado scored two outs later on a single by Joseph Faudskar (Fr., OF, Phoenix, AZ/Pinnacle HS) to left field. Faudskar and Pursell advanced to second and third on the throw to the plate.
Conway was the next batter. With a 3-2 count, Conway swung at a low pitch that hit the artificial turf and went past catcher Luke Peevyhouse. After retrieving the ball, Peevyhouse through wide of Keithly at first base. Pursell scored on the wild pitch and Faudskar scored on the throwing error. Willamette led 4-2.
In the top of the seventh, Shane Suyama hit a one-out single to right field to drive in Galeno and Keithly with the tying runs.
The score remained tied until the 11th inning. Willamette had the first chance to move in front in the bottom of the 10th. With one out, Fessler and Del Prado produced back-to-back singles. Fong pinch ran for Fessler, but he was left at second base after Pacific pitcher Spencer Backstrom struck out Pursell and Janitz.
Kloke's solo home run for the Boxers went over the left field fence with two outs in the top of the 11th and gave Pacific a 5-4 lead. Backstrom recorded three strikeouts in the bottom of the inning to secure the win.
Backstrom (1-0) entered the game with four saves and 8 1/3 total innings pitched in five previous appearances this year. On Saturday, he pitched the final five innings and limited Willamette to just two hits and no runs. He struck out eight batters and allowed one walk.
WU starter Benjamin Whitten (Fr., RHP, Danville, CA/San Ramon Valley HS) pitched well, but allowed four runs in six innings. Dawson Campos (Fr., RHP, Reno, NV/Galena HS) pitched three innings for the Bearcats. Brendan Natuzzi (So., RHP, Napa, CA/Justin-Siena HS) tossed the final two innings and fell to 0-1 with the loss.
The game featured 21 strikeouts. Pacific's four pitchers struck out a total of 13 batters, while the three pitchers for the Bearcats registered eight strikeouts.
Fessler was 2 for 4 with one RBI at the plate for Willamette. Suyama went 2 for 4 with two RBIs for Pacific.