By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
NEWBERG, Ore. -- Perry Van Eckhardt (Jr., CF, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS) smacked a two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning to erase a 10-9 deficit and give Willamette University the lead, as the Bearcats rallied past George Fox University on Tuesday, March 28 for an 11-10 win during the conclusion of a Northwest Conference game suspended on Sunday, March 26.
Following the completion of the suspended game, the teams played a non-conference game which the Bruins won 4-1.
Van Eckhardt finished the suspended game with two home runs, including one on Sunday before the game was stopped due to heavy rain. He added a third homer for Willamette's only run in the non-conference game with the Bruins. Each team registered two wins during the four-game series, with GFU holding a 2-1 edge in the three NWC games.
Willamette ended the afternoon with a 17-11 overall record, including 10-5 in the NWC. The Bearcats are second in the NWC standings behind Pacific Lutheran University (15-3). Linfield College is third at 9-5 and George Fox is fourth at 8-10. The Bruins are 9-14 on the season.
Bearcats Rally to Win Completion of Suspended Game
Despite trailing 7-4 when the game was suspended after four innings on Sunday, Willamette rallied to win the final NWC game in the series, 11-10. The Bearcats outhit the Bruins, 14-13.
WU took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on Sunday. Troy Conway (Jr., 2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS) singled up the middle. He went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Van Eckhardt that resulted in a throwing error by the pitcher.
Conway later scored on a single by Eric Del Prado (Jr., 1B, El Segundo, CA/Loyola HS) with one out. Van Eckhardt reached home when Connor Bailey (So., LF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) hit into a fielder's choice.
George Fox scored five runs in the bottom of the first. The Bruins recorded five hits, including a bases-loaded double by Sam Swenson to drive in the first three runs with one out. Later, Brandon Wileman recorded an RBI double with two outs, and Houston Thom followed with an RBI single.
Matt Voelzke smacked a solo homer in the second inning to extend GFU's advantage to 6-2. The Bearcats cut two runs off the lead with back-to-back homers to right field by Conway and Van Eckhardt in the fourth inning. In the bottom of the fourth, Connor Newell hit a two-out triple and scored on an infield single by Wileman. Rain forced the game to stop at that point.
Willamette plated three runs in the fifth inning when play resumed on Tuesday. With the bases loaded and two outs, Conway doubled through the left side, allowing Jack Brett (Jr., C, Aurora, CO/Regis Jesuit HS) and Tyler Esquivel (Jr., RF, Filmore, CA/Filmore HS) to score.
Van Eckhardt walked reload the bases. Mason Fessler (Jr., INF, Woodburn, OR/Blanchet Catholic School) received a base on balls to drive in Kyle Paguio (So., 3B, Stevenson Ranch, CA/West Ranch HS) with the third run for a 7-7 tie.
The Bearcats broke tie with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth, but GFU matched Willamette with two runs in the bottom of the inning.
With one out in the top of the stanza, Brett hit an infield single. Tyler Janitz (So., SS, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS) and Esquivel also singled, with Brett scoring on Esquivel's hit. Janitz crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly by Paguio.
The Bruins tied the game with an RBI single by Newell and an RBI ground out by Thom. George Fox edged in front with a leadoff homer by Andrew Reichenbach in the eighth inning.
In the top of the ninth, Conway struck out, but reached first on a wild pitch. The next batter was Van Eckhardt, who belted a home run to center field, giving the Bearcats an 11-10 lead.
Voelzke singled for GFU with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Kyle Esquerra then hit a grounder toward the mound that was picked up by WU pitcher Jett Gallagher (Jr., RHP, Santa Cruz, CA/Santa Cruz HS). Gallagher, now 3-1 on the season, ran all the way to first to record the final putout.
Conway was 3 for 6 with a homer, three runs and three RBIs. Van Eckhardt went 2 for 3 with two homers, three runs and three RBIs. He also made several quality putouts in center field. Esquivel added a 3-for-4 performance with one run and one RBI. Voelzke was 3 of 5 for the Bruins with a homer, two runs and one RBI.
Van Eckhardt Hits another Homer, but Bruins Win Non-Conference Game
The non-conference game on Tuesday was originally scheduled to be played at Willamette, but was moved to GFU due to wet grounds at John Lewis Field. Willamette batted last in the non-conference game.
In the bottom the first, Willamette moved in front 1-0 on Van Eckhardt's third home run since Sunday. It was a line-drive shot over the right field fence. The Bearcats managed just four hits the rest of the way.
George Fox tied the game when Jantzen Tamanaha scored on an infield single by Jalen Drath in the top of the third. In the top of the fifth, Drath provided the Bruins with another RBI single, while Dillon Blankenship added an RBI triple.
Drath contributed his third run-producing single in the ninth inning to drive in Gavin Speegle who singled as a pinch-hitter to start the inning. Speegle went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Michael Ziccarelli before scoring on Drath's hit.
For the game, Drath was 3 for 5 with a trio of RBIs and one run scored. Zach Rhoads went 2 of 4 for the Bruins. Conway registered two hits in four at bats for Willamette.
GFU starting pitcher Connor Carter went five innings and allowed just two hits and one run. He moved to 1-0 ont he season. Ryan Johnson recorded a save. Esquivel, who pitched in the fifth inning for the Bearcats, fell to 0-1 with the loss.
Up Next for Willamette
The Bearcats will host Pacific Lutheran in a three-game NWC series this weekend, with two games on Saturday, April 1 and one game on Sunday, April 2. The action is slated to begin at 12 p.m. (PDT) each day.