Natuzzi Hits Winning Sac Fly, Earns Pitching Victory, as Bearcats Split at Whittier

Brendan Natuzzi (Jr., UT, Napa, CA/Justin-Siena HS)
Brendan Natuzzi (Jr., UT, Napa, CA/Justin-Siena HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

WHITTIEER, Calif. -- Brendan Natuzzi (Jr., UT, Napa, CA/Justin-Siena HS) registered five strikeouts and faced just nine batters while pitching the final three innings, as Willamette University edged Whittier College, 7-6, in the second game of a non-conference baseball doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 3 at Hugh B. Mendez Field. Natuzzi also provided the game-winning RBI with a sacrifice fly that drove in Joseph Faudskar (So., OF, Phoenix, AZ/Pinnacle HS) in the top of the eighth inning. Whittier won the first game, 9-0, as starting pitcher Alex Baez tossed a complete game four-hitter for the Poets.

Both teams ended the day at 2-1 on the season. In the first game, the Poets accumulated 13 hits. The Bearcats responded by pounding out 13 hits in the second game. Willamette will complete its four-game trip to Southern California with a single game against Pomona-Pitzer in Claremont, California, on Sunday, Feb. 4. Game time is set for 11 a.m. (PST).

Bearcats Hit Six Doubles, Rally from 6-5 Deficit, in Game 2

Willamette's offense produced six doubles in the second game. Tyler Janitz (Jr., SS, Modesto, CAJoseph A. Gregori HS) smacked two doubles, while Natuzzi, Faudskar, Cameron Igarashi (Sr., RF, Honolulu, HIMid-Pacific Institute) and Jack Brett (Sr., C, Aurora, CO/Regis Jesuit HS) each hit one double.

"The offensive came alive," Willamette Head Coach Aaron Swick said. "Faudskar and Natuzzi had good at bats. Natuzzi was great in relief ... nine up and nine down."

The Bearcats grabbed a 3-0 lead in the top of the second inning. Eric Del Prado (Sr., 1B, El Segundo, CALoyola HS) walked and Igarashi singled to start the inning. Each runner advanced a base on a ground out. Del Prado and Igarashi both scored when Janitz followed with a double through the right side. With two outs, Troy Conway (Sr., 2B, Moorpark, CAMoorpark HS) drove in Janitz with a single. Whittier cut the lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Charlie Mayfield brought in the first run with a sacrifice fly to left field. Mason Blansett hit a single to drive in the second run.

In the top of the third, WU increased its lead to 5-2. Connor Bailey (Jr., LF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) opened the inning with a single up the middle. Natuzzi, who started at designated hitter for the first time in his career, batted next and belted a double up the middle to move Bailey to third. Eric Del Prado (Sr., 1B, El Segundo, CA/Loyola HS) sent Bailey and Natuzzi across the plate with a two-run single up the middle. Igarashi doubled through the left side, but Del Prado was thrown out at third. Brett walked before the Poets recorded back-to-back outs, forcing WU to leave two runners on base.

Whittier scored one run in the fourth inning, before moving in front of the Bearcats, 6-5, with three runs in the bottom of the sixth. Michael Angulo batted first for the Poets in the sixth inning. He hit a double through the left side. Will Reader followed with a bunt single. An error on the play enabled Reader to advance to second, while Angulo scored. Mayfield bunted Reader to third and Blansett walked. Jarryd Samsing provided a double to drive in Reader and Blansett.

Cameron Igarashi (Sr., RF, Honolulu, HI/Mid-Pacific Institute) The Bearcats tied the game in the top of the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Janitz with no outs. The inning began with a single by Igarashi and a double by Brett. Igarashi scored on the sacrifice fly. Brett went to third on a wild pitch, but was stranded there two outs later.

After Natuzzi shut down the Poets in the bottom of the seventh, WU regained the lead in the top of the eighth, when two errors proved costly for Whittier. Faudskar reached first base on an error by Blansett at shortstop, and then went to second on an error by Reader, who moved from third base to pitcher with one out in the seventh inning. Bailey flied out to left field to advance Faudskar to third. Matthew Macey went to the mound. Natuzzi batted the ball into center field for the sacrifice fly that brought home Faudskar with the go-ahead run.

Natuzzi walked Steven Castro to open the bottom of the eighth, but forced Dmitri Washington to pop-up a bunt toward third to start a double play. Natuzzi struck out Blansett to end the eighth, and then struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth to seal the win.

Igarashi was 4 for 5 with two runs and a double for the Bearcats. Janitz finished 2 for 4 with three RBIs, two doubles, a run scored and a sacrifice fly. Conway went 2 for 3 with one RBI. Del Prado, who recorded 14 putouts at first base, was 1 for 4 at the plate with a run and two RBIs. For Whittier, Samsing went 2 of 4 with two doubles and two RBIs.

Baez Leads Whitter to Shutout Win in First Game

Baez, now 1-0, provided the Poets with a strong performance on the mound in the first game. In addition to allowing just four hits, he struck out 10 batters and issued only one walk. 

Whittier scored two runs in the first inning and four runs in the third inning to take charge with a 6-0 lead. With one out in the first stanza, Andrew Lamar reached base on an error at shortstop. Macey hit a double up the middle, sending Lamar to third. After Brandon Mulrooney struck out, Angulo drove in Lamar and Macey with a single through the middle.

In the fourth inning, Lamar singled and Macey doubled to start the stanza. Mulrooney followed with a single up the middle, allowing both runners to cross the plate. A foul out and a strikeout were record by Willamette starting pitcher Brandon Nelson (Jr., RHP, Murrieta, CA/Vista Murrieta HS) before John Vuz and Nick Krska recorded back-to-back singles to bring home Mulrooney. A passed ball allowed Vuz to score from third with the final run of the inning.

Willamette threatened to get a rally going in the top of the fifth, when Igarashi tripled through the left side with one out. Baez struck out consecutive batters to end the inning.

The Poets scored two runs in the seventh and then added one run in the eighth to complete the scoring. Lamar singled to open the seventh frame, and scored one out later on a two-run homer by Mulrooney. In the eighth, Addison Mock doubled up the middle to begin the inning. Chris Howe pinch-ran and went to third on a ground out by Washington. Lamar singled home Howe one out later.

Whittier outhit Willamette 13-4. Lamar was 3 for 5 with three runs and an RBI. Mulrooney finished 2 of 4 with a homer, two runs and four RBIs. Macey was 2 for 5 with two doubles and two runs scored.

Two of Willamette's four hits went for extra bases. Igarashi went 1 for 3 with a triple and Cole Pursell (Jr., C, Oceanside, CA/El Camino HS) went 1 for 3 with a double.

Nelson, 0-1 on the season, allowed eight hits and six runs, but only three runs were earned. He struck out eight batters and gave up one walk. WU relievers Mason Cook (So., RHP, Riverton, UT/Riverton HS) and Nathan Gilman (Jr., RHP, Chino Hills, CA/ Diamond Ranch HS) allowed a total of three runs, while combining for two strikeouts and no walks.