By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
PARKLAND, Wash. -- Willamette University entered the eighth inning with an 8-1 deficit, but the Bearcats scored six runs in the eighth and two runs in the ninth to rally for a 9-8 win over Whitworth University, in the second game of a Northwest Conference doubleheader on Saturday, March 4 at PLU Field. Pinch-runner Perry Van Eckhardt (Jr., OF, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS) scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly to right field by Eric Del Prado (Jr., INF, El Segundo, CA/Loyola HS).
In the first game, Matt Steindorf (So., RHP, Granite Bay, CA/Granite Bay HS) of Willamette pitched the first eight innings to lead the Bearcats to a 7-1 victory. Steindorf improved to 5-0 on the season.
With the pair of wins, Willamette advanced its record to 10-5 on the season, 6-2 in th NWC. Whitworth fell to 6-5 overall, 0-4 in the NWC. The teams will conclude the series with a single game on Sunday, March 5 at 12 p.m. (PST). All three games in the series were moved from Whitworth's home field in Spokane, Washington, to Pacific Lutheran University due to wet field conditions. PLU Field is artiificial turf.
Steindorf Pitches Eight Strong Innings in Game 1
The Bearcats scored once in the first inning, four times in the second and twice in the third to build a 7-1 lead in the opener. Willamette maintained the lead the rest of the way. Steindorf allowed just four hits and one unearned run, while recording six strikeouts with two walks during his eight innings on the mound. He threw 116 pitches.
Troy Conway (Jr., 2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS) was 2 for 5 with two doubles and two runs scored for Willamette. Mason Fessler (Jr., INF, Woodburn, OR/Blanchet Catholic School) went 2 of 3 with a double and three RBIs. Willamette outhit Whitworth 13-4 during the game.
Also recording two hits for the Bearcats were Jack Brett (Jr., C, Aurora, CO/Regis Jesuit HS), Connor Bailey (So., LF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) and Eric Del Prado (Jr., 1B, El Segundo, CA/Loyola HS). One of Bretts' hits was a double. Kyle Paguio (So., INF, Stevenson Ranch, CA/West Ranch HS) finished 1 for 3 with a run scored and three RBIs.
Conway doubled to right field to begin the game. He went to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Kyle Paguio (So., 3B, Stevenson Ranch, CA/West Ranch HS) and scored on a sacrifice fly by Mason Fessler (Jr., DH, Woodburn, OR/Blanchet Catholic School) to right field.
Willamette's four-run second inning featured four hits, including a two-RBI single by Fessler and an RBI double by Brett. With two outs and runners at first and second, Joseph Faudskar (Fr., OF, Phoenix, AZ/Pinnacle HS) walked. Paguio brought home the first run with a bases-loaded walk. Fessler's single and Brett's double followed.
In the bottom of the second, JT Phelan reached base went he hit into an error at third with one out. Phelan later scored an unearned run from third when Daniel Cassanova singled up the middle with two outs.
Del Prado singled for Willamette with one out in the top of the third. With two outs, Conway doubled to put runners at the corners. Paguio singled to drive in Del Prado and Conway.
Whitworth earned one hit in the third inning and one hit with one out in the fourth inning, before Steindorf retired 14 consecutive batters. Brendan Natuzzi (So., UT, Napa, CA/Justin-Siena HS) faced four batters in the bottom of the ninth to complete the game.
Willamette's Rally Sends Bearcats Past Pirates in Game 2
In the second game, Whitworth plated five runs in the first inning and three more in the second for an 8-1 lead. Neither team scored from the third inning through the seventh inning.
The Pirates took advantage of three doubles and an error in the bottom of the first for a 5-0 lead.
With one out, Joel Condreay walked. Jordan McGowan doubled up the middle to drive in Condreay. After Matthew Nelson walked, Spencer Locati blasted a two-run double into center field. An error in the outfield allowed Locati to reach third. Ryan Bird drove in Locati with a double. Bird went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jacob Yamane.
The Bearcats got one run in the top of the second. Fessler walked to begin the stanza. He advanced on two ground outs, and then scored on a single by Tyler Janitz (So., INF, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS). In the bottom of third, two hits and two errors helped Whitworth plate three runs. The only RBI was recorded by Nelson on a sacrifice fly.
Willamette still trailed 8-1 before the Bearcats put together their huge rally with a total of eight runs in the final two innings.
The top of the eighth began with a double up the middle by Bailey and a walk issued to Fessler. Cole Pursell (So., C, Oceanside, CA/El Camino HS) singled to load the bases and Del Prado followed with a two-run single. Taylor Hillmick of Whitworth went in for starting pitcher Ryan Kingma.
Janitz lined out to right field, but Pursell advanced to third on the play. Cameron Igarashi (Jr., OF, Honolulu, HI/Mid-Pacific Institute) hit an RBI single, Faudskar smacked a two-RBI triple to right center and Conway provided an RBI single. Paguio grounded out near home plae and Conway was caught stealing to end the threat.
In the top of the ninth, Bailey and Fessler received back-to-back walks. Van Eckhardt pinch-ran for Fessler.
Pinch-hitter Aaron Fong (So., INF, Honolulu, HI/Punahou School) provided a sacrifice bunt and reached base on a throwing error by the third baseman. Bailey scored on the play, while Van Eckhardt went to third. Del Prado hit a sacrific fly to right field, allowing Van Eckhardt to cross the plate, as the Bearcats took a 9-8 lead.
Jett Gallagher (Jr., RHP, Santa Cruz, CA/Santa Cruz HS) of Willamette, who entered the game with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, faced just three batters in the ninth. He forced Whitworth into a ground out and two strikeouts to end the game. Gallagher moved to 1-0 on the season. Whitworth reliever Kelly Fitzpatrick, who pitched in the ninth inning, dropped to 0-2 with the loss.
Bailey and Janitz each went 2 for 4 and Igrashi was 2 of 5 for Willamette during the second game. Bailey and Fessler scored two runs apiece. Del Prado recorded three RBIs, while Faudskar drove in two runs.
Condreay provided the Pirates a 2-of-4 performance with two runs scored, while Bird was 2 for 3 with a run and an RBI. Locati topped Whitworth with two RBIs.