By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
PARKLAND, Wash. -- Willamette University catcher Jack Brett (Jr., Aurora, CO/Regis Jesuit HS) smacked a three-run homer in the first inning, and pitchers Nathan Gilman (So., RHP, Chino Hills, CA/ Diamond Ranch HS) and Brandon Nelson (So., RHP, Murrieta, CA/Vista Murrieta HS) limited Whitworth University to five hits, as the Bearcats completed a sweep of the Pirates with a 6-3 victory on Sunday, March 5 at PLU Field.
With the win, Willamette improved to 11-5 on the season, 7-2 in the Northwest Conference. Whitworth fell to 6-6 overall, 0-5 in the NWC.
The Bearcats won all three games in the weekend series. Willamette took the first game 7-1 on Saturday, before rallying from an 8-1 deficit in the eighth inning of Saturday's second game to win 9-8. All three games were moved from Whitworth's home field in Spokane, Washington, to the artificial turf at PLU Field on the Pacific Lutheran University campus.
On Sunday, the Bearcats built a 4-0 advantage in the top of the first and led 5-0 after 3 1/2 innings.
Troy Conway (Jr., 2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS) was the first batter of the game. He was hit by a pitch, went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Kyle Paguio (So., 3B, Stevenson Ranch, CA/West Ranch HS) and reached third on a wild pitch. Conway crossed the plate when Connor Bailey (So., OF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) reached first on an error by the second baseman.
Mason Fessler (Jr., DH, Woodburn, OR/Blanchet Catholic School) singled, sending Bailey to second. Brett batted next and pounded his three-run homer to right field on the first pitch he faced. A flyout and a ground out ended the inning.
Whitworth went hitless during the first three innings. The Bearcats had a chance to extend their lead in the third, when Paguio hit a leadoff double. With one out, he advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Fessler, but Whitworth starter Matthew Young caused Brett to ground out to second to end the threat.
Tyler Esquivel (Jr., UT, Filmore, CA/Filmore HS) walked for the Bearcats to start the fourth frame. he was moved to second on a sacrifice butn by Tyler Janitz (So., INF, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS), then went to third on a single by Perry Van Eckhardt (Jr., OF, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS). Esquivel scored on a double-steal, with Van Eckhardt advancing to second.
All three of Whitworth's hits against Gilman were achieved in the bottom of the fourth. With one out, Jordan McGowan singled to right center. Ryan Bird also singled. After Liam Fitzpatrick struck out, Matthew Nelson blasted a three-run homer to right field.
The Bearcats took a 5-3 lead into the fifth inning. Willamette added an insurance run in the top of the sixth, starting with a leadoff single by Brett. One out later, Janitz powered a double into left field, sending Brett to third. Del Prado drove home Brett with a ground out to the shortstop.
Janitz went to third on Del Prado's grounder. Van Eckhardt followed with a line drive, but it was caught by Garrett Hughes at second base to end the inning.
Affer holding Whitworth hitless in the fifth and sixth innings, Gilman gave way to Brandon Nelso on the mound. Nelson provided the Bearcats with three solid innings, as he allowed just two hits and struck out four batters with no walks. He picked up his first save of the season.
The Pirates went down in order in the seventh, including a pair of strikeouts. Joel Condreay doubled with two outs in the eighth inning, but McGowan flied out to left field.
In the bottom of the ninth, Bird batted first and reached base on an error at shortstop. Brandon Nelson struck out Fitzpatrick, but Matthew Nelson singled, sending Bird to second. Tyler Bailey popped up and pinch-hitter Nicholas Nerud flied out to center to end the game.
Brett went 2 of 4 for the Bearcats with his homer, two runs and three RBIs. Van Eckhardt was 2 for 4. The Bearcats hit three sacrifice bunts and went 2 for 2 on stolen bases.
Matthew Nelson topped Whitworth by going 2 for 4, with a homer, one run and three RBIs.
Willamette is scheduled to host Whitman College in an NWC series on Saturday, March 11 and Sunday, March 12. The first two games will be played as a doubleheader on Saturday, with first pitch set for 11 a.m. (PST). The third game is slated for Sunday at 11 a.m (PDT).