By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Tyler Janitz (So., SS, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS) scored on a balk with one out in the bottom of the 10th inning to send Willamette University to a 4-3 victory over 17th-ranked Pacific Lutheran University in the third game of a three-game Northwest Conference series on Sunday, April 2 at John Lewis Field. The Bearcats are now 9-1 this season in NWC games decided by one run.
Janitz walked to start the bottom of the 10th, reached second on a sacrifice bunt by Aaron Fong (Jr., INF, Honolulu, HI/Punahou School), and went to third on a single to shallow center by Troy Conway (Jr., 2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS). Janitz was still at third one out later, when pitcher Andrew Curran balked. Curran, who was starting his delivery, was unsuccessful in his attempt to respond to the catcher's call to "step off" the rubber.
Willamette swept the series to improve to 20-11 overall, 13-5 (.722) in the NWC. PLU fell to 17-8 on the season, 15-6 (.714) in the NWC. Willamette tops the NWC standings by percentage points over Pacific Lutheran. The Lutes have two more wins than Willamette in conference play, but the Bearcats have one fewer loss. Linfield College, at 12-5, also is in the championship race.
Each NWC team was scheduled to play 24 conference games this season. The top four teams will advance to the NWC Tournament to be hosted by the #1 seed.
In Sunday's win over Pacific Lutheran, the Bearcats received a strong pitching performance from Dawson Enright (Fr., RHP, La Mesa, CA/James Madison HS), who entered the game with no outs and one runner on base in the fourth inning. He pitched six innings -- through the ninth -- and allowed no runs and just two hits.
Mason Cook, who faced three batters in the 10th, received the win and improved to 2-0 on the season. PLU relief pitcher Tanner Zuber, fell to 2-1. The Lutes' starter, Cole Johnson, gave up three runs on three hits in the first inning, but finished 6 2/3 innings of work with no additional runs and five more hits.
Conway was 3 for 5 at the plate with a run scored for Willamette. Cole Pursell (So., C, Oceanside, CA/El Camino HS) went 2 for 4 with an RBI. The Bearcats left 14 runners on base.
WU started strong in the first inning. Pitcher Nathan Gilman (So., RHP, Chino Hills, CA/ Diamond Ranch HS) threw to only three batters in the top of the inning. In the bottom of the frame, the Bearcats took the lead.
A single up the middle by Conway got things going. One out later, Mason Fessler (Jr., INF, Woodburn, OR/Blanchet Catholic School) walked. Eric Del Prado (Jr., 1B, El Segundo, CA/Loyola HS) drove in Conway with a single to left center.
A double steal brought Fessler to third and Del Prado to second. Connor Bailey (So., LF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) sent Fessler across the plate with a sacrifice fly, that also allowed Del Prado to reach third. Pursell connected for an RBI single to left center to complete the scoring.
The Bearcats went scoreless over the next eight innings, despite six hits, six walks and one hit batsman. WU left the bases loaded in the third and eighth innings, and had two runners left on base in the fifth and sixth innings.
Pacific Lutheran cut Willamette's lead to 3-2 in the top of the second. With one out, Cole Johnson walked. Brett Johnson batted next and belted a two-run homer to left field.
In the top of the fourth, Cole Johnson walked, and went to second on a wild pitch. Enright went to the mound for the Bearcats. Brett Johnson received a walk. Marques Carlson hit a sacrifice bunt to move both runners up one base. Matt Vick drove in Cole Johnson with a sacrifice fly to left field.
Enright caused Connor Cantu to ground out to end the inning. Enright went on to post five consecutive scoreless innings.
Willamette's three pitchers limited PLU to just three hits. The Bearcats amassed 10 hits for a total of 34 hits during the series. Willamette improved to 3-2 in extra-inning games.
Up next for the Bearcats is a non-conference game with Corban University at John Lewis Field on Wednesday, April 5. Game time is scheduled for 4 p.m. (PDT).