By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SPOKANE, Wash. -- Tyler Janitz (Jr., SS, Salida, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS) smacked a grand slam home run in the seventh inning to help Willamette University secure a 13-4 victory over Concordia University Texas in the second round of the NCAA Division III Spokane Regional on Friday, May 18 at Avista Stadium. Willamette pounded eight extra-base hits on its way to earning 14 hits overall. Eric Del Prado (Sr., 1B, El Segundo, CA/Loyola HS) and Troy Conway (Sr., 2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS) each belted two doubles, while Jack Brett (Sr., C, Aurora, CO/Regis Jesuit HS) smashed a solo homer for the final run of the game.
Janitz was 3 of 5 with a run and five RBIs. Del Prado finished 3 of 4, scored two times and produced four RBIs. Conway went 4 for 5 with a run and two RBIs.
The Bearcats improved to 30-17 on the season and to 21-6 during the last 27 games. Concordia Texas ended its season at 29-18 after falling to 0-2 in the South Regional.
"Offensively, we've found our streak here ... eight extra-base hits today, six extra-base hits yesterday," Head Coach Aaron Swick said. "The hitters got to some positive (pitch) counts."
Willamette is 2-0 in the Regional and will play in the winner's bracket game on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. (PDT) against the winner of Saturday's 11 a.m. game between University of Texas-Dallas and Texas Lutheran University. The UT-Dallas versus Texas Lutheran game was postponed on Friday due to wet grounds.
Janitz's grand slam gave the Bearcats an 11-4 lead and was the key hit in a five-run inning. The home run followed a hit batsman and two walks to start the bottom of the seventh. It was the first homer of the season for Janitz and the second homer of his career.
"It was a 3-1 count," Janitz said. "I was just looking to hit a fastball. I put a good swing on it. Luckily it got out of the park."
Following the grand slam, Cameron Igarashi (Sr., RF, Honolulu, HI/Mid-Pacific Institute) doubled near the left field line and Conway doubled near the right field line. Igarashi scored to complete the big inning for the Bearcats.
WU starter Nathan Gilman (Jr., RHP, Chino Hills, CA/Diamond Ranch HS) faced just four batters in the top of the first. Del Prado ended the half inning by catching a foul ball while leaning into the first base box seats.
The Bearcats followed with four runs on just two hits in the bottom of the first. Perry Van Eckhardt (Sr., CF, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS) was hit by a pitch to start the inning. He stole both second base and third base, before scoring on a double by Conway to right field. After Connor Bailey (Jr., LF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) walked, Concordia starter Calvin Bush was replaced by the first of six relief pitchers during the game.
With one out, Brendan Natuzzi (Jr., 3B/RHP, Sonoma, CA/Justin-Siena HS) walked to fill the bases. Del Prado followed with a bases-clearing double to left field.
"I just got that off-speed pitch out over the plate and put a good swing on it," Del Prado said.
In the second inning, Van Eckhardt walked with one out and then stole second. He went to third on a single by Conway and scored on a sacrifice fly to center field by Bailey, who recorded his team-leading 54th RBI of the season. Van Eckhardt's run gave WU a 5-0 lead.
Bailey recorded the second out on defense in the top of the third inning, when he made a catch against the left field fence on a fly ball by Caleb Rodriguez. Michael Evan doubled with one out and scored earlier in the inning. Clarence Guidry III scored on a single after the catch to pull the Tornados within 5-2.
Neither team scored in the fourth inning, but Van Eckhardt registered a triple for the Bearcats. In the top of the fifth, Carson Cox drove in Evan and Guidry with a single down the right field line, cutting the Bearcats' lead to 5-4. Willamette ended the inning when Reed Carlton hit into a 6-4-3 double play.
The bottom of the fifth began with a single by Brett, who went to second one out later on a passed ball. Del Prado doubled to center to drive in Brett. Janitz batted next and provided an RBI single to right center for a 7-4 advantage.
Concordia Texas threatened to score in the top of the seventh. The Tornados had the bases loaded with no outs on consecutive singles by Ryan Clouse, Evan and Guidry. Rodriguez followed by hitting the ball toward Del Prado at first base. Guidry ran into Del Prado as he was fielding the ball. The official ruled that Guidry was out for runner's interference, while Rodriguez reached base on a fielder's choice. With the bases still loaded, Cox grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.
Willamette's huge inning with Janitz's home run followed in the bottom of the seventh, as the Bearcats took charge. Bailey added one more stellar defensive play for the Bearcats on a diving catch in left field for the second out in the bottom of the ninth.
"We're just trying to do our jobs," Janitz commented. "Our whole infield has had a lot of double plays that have gotten us out of big situations, and the outfield has made diving catches out there."
Liam Keefe (Fr., LHP, Lake Arrowhead, CA/Rim of the World HS), who relieved Gilman with one out in the fifth inning, earned the pitching win and improved to 3-0. He went 2 2/3 innings and allowed four hits and no runs. He had one strikeout. Dawson Enright (So., RHP, La Mesa, CA/James Madison HS) tossed the final two innings for WU and struck out two batters.