By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University starting pitcher Matt Steindorf went 8 2/3 innings and finished with 96 strikes and 146 pitches to lead the Bearcats to a 5-3 win over Linfield College in the first game of a Northwest Conference doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 17 at John Lewis Field. Steindorf, now 2-1 on the season, took a 5-1 lead into the ninth inning. He allowed one unearned run in the fourth inning and two earned runs in the ninth. He struck out three batters and allowed only one walk.
"Matt made a number of gutsy pitches with guys on base," Willamette Head Coach Aaron Swick said. "Offensively, we had some two-out RBIs that made the difference."
Willamette improved to 5-4 overall, 1-0 in the NWC, while Linfield droppd to 5-4 on the season, 0-1 in the NWC. Jack Brett (Sr., C, Aurora, CO/Regis Jesuit HS) and Connor Bailey (Jr., LF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) each belted a home run for the Bearcats.
Bailey also made two catches in or near foul territory starting from his position in left field. Both were impressive plays. The first was truly spectacular, as Bailey went on an all-out run and dove horizontally near the bullpen to grab a ball hit by Daniel Zavala for the third out in the top of the seventh. The home plate umpire went past the infield toward Bailey to confirm the catch. Bailey smacked his two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh to give Willamette a 5-1 advantage. In the top of the eighth, Bailey again ran all-out to grab a fly ball that was above the foul line in shallow left field to steal a hit from Jake Gellos for the final out of the inning.
The second game of the doubleheader was suspended with two outs in the top of the eighth inning and Linfield holding an 18-1 lead. The Wildcats scored 12 runs in the eighth inning before the game was stopped due to darkness. That game will be completed when the Bearcats and Wildcats resume play at John Lewis Field on Sunday, Feb. 18 at 12 p.m. (PST). Willamette and Linfield will play Sunday's regularly scheduled game once the suspended game has concluded.
In the first game, Brett singled to for Willamette with one out in the bottom of the second inning. He moved to second on a ground out by Kyle Underwood (Fr., C, Highland, CA/Citrus Valley HS) and scored on a single to right center from Tyler Janitz (Jr., SS, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS).
Linfield equalized in the top of the fourth after leaving two runners on base in both the second inning and third inning. Alex Hendra-Brown hit an infield single to second to start the fourth. Two ground outs later, he scored from second base when Colton Robinson hit a dribbler near the third base line that resulted in an infield hit and a throwing error. Hendra-Browns run was unearned. Robinson went to second on the error, but was stranded there when Brady Rediger grounded out.
WU regained the lead with a run in the fifth inning. The run was scored by Janitz, who singled through the right side, went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Troy Conway (Sr., 2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS), went to third on a single by Cameron Igarashi (Sr., RF, Honolulu, HI/Mid-Pacific Institute), and scored on a single up the middle by Eric Del Prado (Sr., 1B, El Segundo, CA/Loyola HS). The Bearcats extended the margin to 3-1 when Brett blasted a leadoff homer on the first pitch he faced in the sixth inning.
The Bearcats provided two more insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh for a 5-1 lead. Igarashi reached first base on a throwing error by the second baseman to open the stanza. A sacrifice bunt by Perry Van Eckhardt (Sr., CF, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS) and a ground out by Del Prado put Igarashi at third. Bailey batted next, and trailed 0-2 in the count before he powered a two-run homer over the right field fence.
Linfield began the ninth inning with a double to right center by Robinson. Steindorf forced Rediger to ground out, which sent Robinson to third. A ground out by Alex Cook allowed Robinson to score while Del Prado tossed the ball to Steindorf covering first base. Singles by Ryan Ross and Daniel Zavala forced WU to bring in reliever Brandon Murillo (Fr., RHP, Rancho Cucamonga, CA/Los Osos HS). Fox singled up the middle to bring home Ross, but Murillo struck out Hendra-Brown to end the game and pick up his second save.
Del Prado, Brett and Janitz each went 2 for 4 at the plate for the Bearcats in the first game. Brett hit his solo homer and also scored one more run. Del Prado and Janitz each drove in a run, with Janitz also scoring once. Bailey's home run was his second four-bagger of the season. Steindorf allowed 13 hits on his way to the win, but he forced Linfield to finish with 12 runners left on base.
Fox was 3 of 5 for Linfield with a double and an RBI. Robinson finished 2 of 4 with a double and a run scored. Ross was 2 of 5 and scored one time. Cal Neely, who started on the mound for the Wildcats, fell to 1-1 with the loss. He allowed eight hits and three runs, while recording six strikeouts and two walks.