By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University pounded out 11 hits and received eight walks, as the Bearcats downed George Fox University, 10-4, on Sunday, March 25 in the third game of a three-game Northwest Conference series. The Bearcats won the series two games to one.
Prior to Willamette's victory in the final game of the series, the teams completed the middle game, which was suspended due to the weather at the end of four innings on Saturday. George Fox defeated Willamette in the suspended game, 8-3.
Willamette ended the weekend with a 15-12 record, including 7-8 in the NWC. George Fox moved to 15-11 overall, 9-9 in the NWC.
In the final game, Eric Del Prado (Sr., 1B, El Segundo, CA/Loyola HS) led Willamette's offense by going 2 for 4 with a double, a two-run homer and five RBIs. He leads the Bearcats with 33 RBIs on the season.
Four Unearned Runs in Second Inning help Bruins Grab 8-3 Win
George Fox took a 4-0 lead in the second game of the series by scoring four unearned run in the second inning on Saturday. Jerred Seamons opened the inning by reaching first base on a fielding error. After Dillon Blankenship flied out, Bryan Branstatter hit into another fielding error, leaving runners at first and second. Colby Watilo flied out down the right field line, with Seamons reaching third. Matt Voelzke walked to load the bases.
Jantzen Tamanaha batted next and blasted a double to the left field fence. Connor Bailey (Jr., LF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) covered plenty of ground and almost tracked it down, but the ball went off the fence as well as his glove. All three base runners scored. A double by AJ Valencia brought Tamanaha across the plate with the final run of the stanza.
Willamette plated one run in the bottom of the inning. Perry Van Eckhardt (Sr., CF, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS) walked, stole second and third, and scored on a ground out by Tyler Janitz (Jr., SS, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS). In the third inning, Bailey walked with one out and Del Prado added a double, but both runners were left on base.
The game was suspended after four innings due to the weather with GFU still in front 4-1. When play resumed on Sunday, neither team scored in the fifth inning, but Voelzke hit an RBI double in the top of the sixth to increase the Bruins' lead to 5-1.
In the bottom of the eighth, consecutive singles by Conway, Bailey and Del Prado allowed Conway to score and left runners at first and third. Brendan Natuzzi (So., 3B/P, Napa, CA/Justin-Siena HS) blasted a shot down the left field line that was initially ruled a home run by the plate umpire. After the play, the umpires met and changed the ruling to a foul ball. Natuzzi eventually walked, filling the bases. A ground out to first by Van Eckhardt brought Bailey home, but the Bearcats were unable to score more runs. GFU led 5-3.
The Bruins tacked on three runs in the ninth. The first two runs scored on a homer by Sam Swenson. Later, Marc Audet added a sacrifice fly. Blankenship was 2 of 4 for the Bruins during the game, while Seamons was 2 for 5 with two runs scored. Bailey was 2 for 3 with a run and a walk for the Bearcats. Del Prado went 2 of 3 with a double, a walk and an RBI.
Isaac Olson, who pitched the fifth through seventh innings for GFU, was the winning pitcher, as he improved to 3-0. WU starter Benjamin Whitten (So., RHP, Danville, CA/San Ramon Valley HS) fell to 2-3, but allowed only three hits. All four runs against Whitten were unearned.
Bearcats Register 10-4 Victory after Scoring in 6 of 8 Innings
Willamette batted in eight innings during the third game in the series and scored at least one run in six of those innings. The Bearcats took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first and never trailed on their way to a 10-4 win.
Conway singled with one out in the first. He went to second on a wild pitch. After Bailey walked, two more wild pitches sent Conway across the plate, while Bailey went to third. Bailey scored on a line-drive sacrifice fly to left field by Del Prado. Swenson belted a leadoff homer for George Fox in the second inning to cut the lead to 2-1.
After not scoring in the second and third stanzas, the Bearcats scored two runs in the fourth, two more in the fifth, one in the sixth, two in the seventh and one in the eighth.
In the fourth, Natuzzi belted a double with one out and eventually scored on a single by Van Eckhardt. Janitz who walked with two outs eventually reached the plate on an infield single by Kyle Underwood. WU led 4-1. The Bearcats upped their advantage to 6-1 in the fifth when Del Prado smacked his two-run homer to left field. Joseph Faudskar (So., OF/P, Phoenix, AZ/Pinnacle HS) also scored on the play.
George Fox seemed ready to battle back in the top of the sixth. With one out, Austin Baek single down the right field line and went to second on a wild pitch. Tamanaha and Kyler Brudwick walked, loading the bases. The threat disappeared when Swenson grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.
Underwood drove in Willamette's next run on a fielder's choice in the bottom of the sixth. In the seventh, Del Prado belted a two-run double to give Willamette a 9-1 lead.
Audet pounded out a solo home run for the Bruins in the eighth. In the bottom of the inning, Conway drove in the Bearcats' final run with a long fly out in foul territory. Kyle Esquerra blasted a two-run homer for GFU in the ninth.
Del Prado's 2-for-4 performance, extra-base hits and five RBIs led the Bearcats. Natuzzi was 2 of 4 with a double and a run scored. Underwood finished 1 of 3 with a walk and two RBIs. Bailey scored twice and walked three times. For GFU, Esquerra went 2 of 2 with a single and a homer. The Bruins were held to seven hits.
Willamette starter Brandon Nelson (Jr., RHP, Murrieta, CA/Vista Murrieta HS) improved to 4-4 with the win. GFU starter Cameron Jack fell to 3-3 on the season. The Bearcats are scheduled to host Pacific University in a non-conference game at John Lewis Field on Tuesday, March 27 at 2 p.m . (PDT).