By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications, (503) 370-6110
GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas -- Willamette University led 6-1 after one inning and held an 8-2 lead entering the eighth, but LeTourneau University scored eight runs on five hits and two errors in the eighth inning on its way to a 10-9 win over the Bearcats at AirHogs Stadium on Friday, Feb. 9. LeTourneau, playing its season opener, ended the night at 1-0. Willamette fell to 2-4 on the season.
Perry Van Eckhardt (Sr., CF, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS) led Willamette by going 3 of 5 with a double and two runs scored. Five other Bearcats recorded two hits apiece, as Willamette outhit the YellowJackets, 15-9. Troy Conway (Sr., 2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS) was 2 for 4 with a triple and three RBIs. Connor Bailey (Jr., LF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) was 2 of 5 with a homer, two runs scored and two RBIs. Brendan Natuzzi (Jr., UT, Napa, CA/Justin-Siena HS), Kyle Underwood (Fr., C, Highland, CA/Citrus Valley HS) and Tyler Janitz (Jr., SS, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS) also recorded two hits. Eric Del Prado drove in two runs.
Gonzalo Sosa was 2 of 4 for LETU with two runs and an RBI. Seven Yellowjackets finished with one hit. Carson Dickey and Bryce Brueggemeyer each registered two RBIs.
Willamette grabbed a 6-0 advantage in the top of the first inning, as the Bearcats piled up six hits. Joseph Faudskar (So., OF, Phoenix, AZ/Pinnacle HS) recorded an infield single to start the game. Van Eckhardt singled to center field and then went to second on the throw, as Faudskar reached third. Natuzzi was hit by a pitch, which loaded the bases. Del Prado drove in Faudskar with the first run on a sacrifice fly to left. An RBI single by Bailey brought home Van Eckhardt.
Natuzzi and Bailey each advanced a base on a balk. Jack Brett (Sr., C, Aurora, CO/Regis Jesuit HS) drove in Natuzzi with a ground out to second, and Underwood sent Bailey across the plate with a single up themiddle. After Janitz singled, Conway belted a two-run triple to right center.
LeTourneau pushed across one run in the bottom of the first, but Willamette answered with a run in the top of the second for a 7-1 lead. Van Eckhardt singled through the left side of the infield to begin the second stanza. He scored later in the inning on a single by Del Prado.
Neither team scored again until Willamette plated its eighth run in the top of the seventh. With one out, Underwood walked. Tyler Vandemark (Fr., OF, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS) pinch-ran for Underwood and went to saecond on a bunt by Janitz. Vandemark scored when Conway followed with a single to center. The Yellowjackets cut the margin to 8-2 when Sosa singled and eventually scored on a ground out by Brueggemeyer.
The bottom of the eighth began with Bradshaw striking out. A walk, plus a single by Valdez and an error at second when Jacob Jones batted allowed LETU to fill the bases. Sosa hit a bloop single in to extremely shallow left field. Bailey dashed forward to make a play, but was unable to field the ball cleanly and it went past him. All three runners scored, while Sosa went to second base. The Yellowjackets added five more runs for a 10-8 lead, as Brueggemeyer hit an RBI single, Lee Hosie earned an RBI double, one run scored on a wild pitch, and Dickey drove in two runs with a single to left.
Bailey opened the ninth inning by blasting an inside-the-park home run to left center off relief pitcher Koltan Eberlan. No other runners reached base during the inning, as Eberland registered a save. Haden Smmons, who pitched in the eighth innin for LETU, was credited with the win. Austin Peters (Fr., RHP, Corona, CA/Norco HS) of Willamette took the loss.
The Bearcats are scheduled to take on Hardin-Simmons University (Texas) on Saturday, Feb. 10 in Grand Prairie. Game time is slated for 6 p.m. CST/4 p.m. PST.