Pursell Blasts Leadoff Homer in 14th Inning, as Bearcats Win 4-3 to Split Twinbill

Cole Pursell (So., C, Oceanside, CA/El Camino HS)
Cole Pursell (So., C, Oceanside, CA/El Camino HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications, (503) 370-6110

McMINNVILLE, Ore. -- Cole Pursell (So., C, Oceanside, CA/El Camino HS) smacked a home run to left field to open the bottom of the 14th inning and send Willamette University to a 4-3 victory over Whitman College in the second game of a Northwest Conference doubleheader on Saturday, March 11 at Roy Helser Field. The Bearcats split the doubleheader after Whitman won the first game, 3-0, behind eight shutout innings from starter Nick Johnson.

It was the longest game in terms of innings played by Willamette in recent memory.

The Bearcats and the Blue will conclude the NWC series during the first game of a doubleheader starting at 12 p.m. (PDT) on Sunday, March 12 at Roy Helser Field. A non-conference game between the two teams will complete Sunday's doubleheader.

Willamette ended the day with a 12-6 overall record, including 8-3 in the NWC. Whitman moved to 9-7 overall, 4-3 in the NWC.

Bearcats Belt Three Homers to Win Game 2

Pursell's home run ended a game that went five extra innings and lasted four hours and 10 minutes. Willamette relief pitcher Jett Gallagher (Jr., RHP, Santa Cruz, CA/Santa Cruz HS) tossed six shutout innings to earn the win. 

All sevens runs crossed the plate on homers, as the team's combined for five hits that left the park. All five homers went over the left field fence.

Whitman took a 1-0 lead whn Adrian Vela blasted a solo home run as the first batter in the second inning. The Bearcats tied the score on a leadoff homer by Tyler Janitz (So., SS, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS) in the bottom of the fourth.

The Blues surged back in front on Vela's second home run of the game, a two-run shot after Joseph Zimmer singled to open the fourth stanza. It was Vela's fourth home run of the season.

Eric Del Prado (Jr., INF, El Segundo, CA/Loyola HS) tied the score when he pounded a two-run, opposite-field homer in the bottom of the fourth. Fessler, who hit a single to left field with one out, also scored on the play.

The game remained 3-3 as the teams went 9 1/2 consecutive innings without either team scoring. Willamette made several key defensive plays during those innings.

With one out in the top of the seventh and runners at first and second, Janitz dove toward second base to keep Anthony Lim's grounder on the infield. Janitz tossed the ball to Troy Conway (Jr., INF, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS) for a force out at second.

In the eighth, Cameron Igarashi (Jr., OF, Honolulu, HI/Mid-Pacific Institute) caught a well-hit ball against the right field fence for the third out of the inning. Pinch-hitter John Lyon narrowly missed a home run on the play, while David Johnson, who singled with two outs, was left stranded at first.

Troy Conway (Jr., 2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS) registered a diving catch just into foul territory for the third out in the top of the ninth. Brett Williams of Whitman was left at first base.

In the bottom of the 11th, The Bearcats had Pursell at first and Connor Bailey (So., LF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) after Pursell walked with two outs. Pursell was thrown out when Janitz hit into a fielder's choice to end the inning.

Both starting pitchers threw well. Benjamin Whitten (Fr., RHP, Danville, CA/San Ramon Valley HS) of Willamette tossed five innings, while Garrett Atkinson threw the first seven innings for Whitman. Dawson Campos (Fr., RHP, Reno, NV/Galena HS) pitched the sixth, seventh and eighth frames for WU, before Gallagher entered the game to start the ninth inning.

For Willamette, Conway and Pursell went 2 for 5, while Del Prado was 2 for 6. David Johnson went 3 of 6 for Whitman. Jake Wishart was 2 for 4, Vela was 2 for 6, and Zimmer was 2 for 7.

Johnson's Pitching Helps Blues Win Opener, 3-0

Nick Johnson's solid pitching over eight innings in the first game was a key factor for Whitman. He allowed no runs and just three hits -- all singles. Willamette starter Matt Steindorf (So., RHP, Granite Bay, CA/Granite Bay HS) joined Johnson in a pitching duel for most of the game.

Whitman scored only one run on Steindorf in the first seven innings. The run was recorded by David Johnson, who singled to right center to start the fifth inning and scored from third base two outs later on a single by Wishart.

Steindorf left the game with Whitman leading 2-0 and runners at first and second with two outs in the top of the eighth. Vela, who drove in the Blues' second run with a single earlier in the inning, was the runner at second. He crossed home plate two batters later when Jasper Crusberg hit an infield single to shortstop with the bases loaded.

Nick Johnson improved to 1-1 with the pitching victory. Jimmy Smiley tossed the final two innings for the Blues to earn his second save. Steindorf fell to 5-1 with the loss.

Willamette managed just four hits during the game. Bailey, Del Prado and Igarashi each hit a single, while Perry Van Eckhardt (Jr., OF, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS) recorded a double in the ninth inning.

Wishart was 2 of 4 with a triple and an RBI for Whitman. Vela was 2 for 4 with a run and an RBI. David Johnson and Crusberg also recorded two hits for the Blues.