By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University and George Fox University split a non-conference doubleheader on Sunday, April 29, during Senior Day at John Lewis Field. The Bearcats won the opener, 5-4, and the Bruins took the second game, 10-3. Prior to the first game, Willamette honored the eight seniors on this year's team. The Bearcats won 5 of 9 games against the Bruins this season.
All eight seniors started the opener for the Bearcats. Troy Conway (2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS), who was recovering from an injury, left the game after one pitch. The six other senior fielders each contributed at least one hit during the game.
Jack Brett (C, Aurora, CO/Regis Jesuit HS) was 2 for 4 with two RBIs. Aaron Fong (3B/2B, Honolulu, HI/Punahou School) hit a two-run double, while Perry Van Eckhardt (CF, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS), Cameron Igarashi (RF, Honolulu, HI/Mid-Pacific Institute), Eric Del Prado (Sr., 1B, El Segundo, CA/Loyola HS), and Mason Fessler (DH/INF, Woodburn, OR/Blanchet Catholic School) each recorded one single. Senior pitcher Jett Gallagher (RHP, Santa Cruz, CA/Santa Cruz HS) started the game and threw 4 1/3 innings.
Junior left fielder Connor Bailey (San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) went 2 for 4 in the first game with one RBI. He extended his hitting streak to 16 consecutive games. The streak ended when he was held hitless in three plate appearances in the second game.
Del Prado blasted a solo home run for the Bearcats in game two. He was 3 for 7 on the day, including 2 for 3 with two runs and an RBI in the second game. Del Prado extended his Willamette record for career putouts to 1,072 and increased his single season record for putouts to 376. Also in the second game, Tyler Janitz (Jr., SS, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS) was 2 for 3, while Michael Nelson (Fr., UT, Folsom, CA/Vista Del Lago HS) went 2 of 4 with a run scored. Janitz was 3 of 6 during the doubleheader.
Willamette moved to 28-17 on the season. The Bearcats, who defeated the Bruins in the Northwest Conference Tournament championship game on April 22, will be competing in the 2018 NCAA Division III Baseball Tournament, which begins with regional action between May 17 and May 21. George Fox ended its season at 25-19.
"It was great to celebrate the seniors today," said Willamette Head Coach Aaron Swick. "We are excited about the opportunity to continue our season. We will need to continue to get better at practice before we play in the NCAA regionals."
Bearcats Score Go-Ahead Run in Seventh Inning of First Game
Willamette broke a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the seventh inning in the first game. Igarashi was hit by a pitch to start the frame. He went to second when Bailey singled to left, and then scored on a single through the right side by Brett. Reliever Liam Keefe (Fr., LHP, Lake Arrowhead, CA/Rim of the World HS), who pitched the final two outs of the fifth inning and all of the sixth and seventh, improved to 2-0 with the win. Brandon Murillo (Fr., RHP, Rancho Cucamonga, CA/Los Osos HS) pitched the ninth inning to earn his seventh save.
The Bruins scored two runs in the top of the first. Tristan Guillen walked to begin the game. Two outs later, Sam Swensen powered a hit over the left field fence for a two-run homer.
Willamette tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the third. Fessler received a walk to start the inning. One out later, Van Eckhardt singled to right. With two outs, Bailey singled to left, allowing Fessler to score. Brett followed with a single to left center to drive in Van Eckhardt.
In the fourth, Janitz walked with one out and Fong doubled to right center with two outs. Fong's hit advanced Janitz over the final three bases for a 3-2 lead. Willamette increased its margin to 4-2 in the sixth. Janitz singled up the middle and then beat a close throw to second on a stolen base. A sacrifice bunt by Fessler moved Janitz to third. Janitz scored on another close play after Fong hit a sacrifice fly to shallow center field. Guillen stormed forward to make a shoestring catch on Fong's sacrifice, but Janitz beat the throw to the plate.
George Fox tied the game with two unearned runs in the top of the seventh. With one out, Chase Fetzer provided the Bruins with a pinch-hit single. Fetzer went to second on an error when Turner Glenn hit a ball toward shortstop. Kyler Brudwick doubled near the right field line to drive in Fetzer. Glenn scored two batters later on a sacrifice fly by Jerred Seamons. During the game, Seamons was 2 for 2 with one RBI and one walk.
Harbour Harrison (Jr., RHP, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS) pitched to just three batters in the eighth. Murillo faced only three batters in the ninth.
GFU Scores Four Runs in Fifth to Take Lead in Second Game
In the second game, the Bearcats held a 2-1 lead before George Fox scored four runs in the fifth inning to move in front. The Bruins added four runs in the sixth inning for a commanding 9-2 advantage. Swenson hit a two-run double and Matt Voelzke added a two-run single to produce the four runs in the fifth. Gavin Speegle opened the sixth inning by belting a home run to right center. Later, Brudwick drove in two runs with a double down the left field line, and Swenson brought in the fourth run with a sacrifice fly.
Two freshmen created the game's first run for Willamette in the second inning. With one out, Nelsen singled to center. One out later, Nelsen scored when Cole Slater (C, Encino, CA/Campbell Hall HS) smacked a triple into the right field corner. Jantzen Tamanaha belted a solo home run for the Bruins in the top of the third. Del Prado put the Bearcats back in front with a solo homer in the bottom of the fourth.
The consecutive four-run innings by GFU put the Bruins in control. Willamette earned three hits in the sixth, including a single by Del Prado to open the stanza. The Bearcats had the bases loaded with one out, but WU only scored one run, as Del Prado crossed the plate on a balk. Tamanaha hit his second solo home run of the game for George Fox in the eighth to complete the scoring.
Nelsen, Del Prado and Janitz each earned two hits for the Bearcats. For GFU, Tamanaha finished 2 for 3 with four runs and two RBIs. Brudwick was 2 of 2 with a run and two RBIs. Speegle went 2 for 3 with a run and an RBI.