By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
McMINNVILLE, Ore. -- Willamette University scored four runs on five walks and two hit batsmen in the top of the ninth inning, as the Bearcats rallied from an 8-5 deficit to defeat Linfield College, 9-8, in a non-conference game at Roy Helser Field on Sunday, Feb. 17. The Bearcats trailed 4-0 and 6-2 earlier in the game, before rallying past the Wildcats. Willamette improved to 3-2 on the season, while Linfield dropped to 2-4.
The ninth inning began with a walk on a full count to Tyler Janitz (Sr., SS, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS). Janitz was thrown out at second when Connor Bailey (Sr., CF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) hit into a fielder's choice. After Cole Pursell (Sr., C, Oceanside, CA/El Camino HS) walked with a full count, Linfield pitcher Ethan Jones recorded a strikeout.
With Willamette down to its final out, Brendan Natuzzi (Sr., 3B, Napa, CA/Justin-Siena HS) walked and Ethan Fischel (Fr., 2B, Eureka, CA/Eureka HS) was hit by a pitch to bring home Bailey. Jack Garver (Fr., OF, Salt Lake City, UT/Skyline HS) was hit by a pitch, allowing Pursell to score. Tyler Kurata (So., INF, Seal Beach, CA/Los Alamitos HS) walked with a full count, pushing Natuzzi across the plate with the tying run.
Callan McRae replaced Jones on the mound with the bases still loaded. Justin Scanlon (Jr., 2B/DH, San Jose, CA/Leigh HS/West Valley College) walked on a 3-2 pitch as Fischel scored the go-ahead run. McRae forced Janitz to ground out to first to end the threat.
In the bottom of the ninth, WU reliever Brandon Murillo (So., RHP, Rancho Cucamonga, CA/Los Osos HS) caused Brian Cromwell to fly out to left, and struck out Jared Evans, before walking Cameron Fox on a full count. Zach Cokos struck out looking to end the game. Murillo, who first went to the mound in the eighth, moved to 1-0. Jones fell to 0-1 with the loss.
"Anytime you get a win it's a good day," Willamette Head Coach Aaron Swick commented. "I thought we pitched fairly well and played good defense, but couldn't get a timely hit early in the game. Preseason (early non-conference) games give you a chance to learn things about your team. This year's group is going to battle to the last out."
Willamette registered just one hit in the first five innings and had only two hits entering the seventh. Linfield scored two runs in the bottom of the first when Ben Whitt hit a leadoff double and scored when Cromwell powered a home run over the left field fence.
The Wildcats tacked on a run in the fourth and one run in the sixth for a 4-0 lead. In the fourth, Colton Robinson doubled to center with one out. Ayden Allen followed with an RBI double down the left field line. In the sixth, Fox doubled to left center, went to third on a ground out, and scored on a single by Levi Horner-Villa that Janitz kept on the infield.
Willamette pulled within 4-2 in the seventh. Natuzzi started the frame with a double to center field. With one out, Garvey advanced Natuzzi to third on a single to left. With two outs, Scanlon drove in both runners with a double.
Linfield regained a four-run lead with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Both runs scored on a double by Fox with two outs and runners at first and second.
The Bearcats reduced the margin to 6-5 by plating three runs in the eighth. Bailey singled and then went to second on a wild pitch. He scored on a double to right by Pursell. A ground out sent Pursell to third, and he scored when Natuzzi reached first on a fielding error. After a wild pitch, Fischel drove home Natuzzi with a double near the left field line.
Two runs in the bottom of the eighth gave Linfield an 8-5 advantage. The Wildcats used a single from Horner-Villa, a sacrifice bunt by Kurt Potter, and an RBI triple by Allen to produce the first run. Allen then scored on a sacrifice fly by Alec Cook. The wild top of the ninth inning followed.
Pursell was 2 of 5 for Willamette with two runs, a double and an RBI. Six Bearcats earned one hit, including doubles by Scanlon, Natuzzi and Fischel. Natuzzi scored three runs and Scanlon recorded three RBIs. Willamette batters walked nine times during the game. For Linfield, Fox was 3 for 3 with a run, two doubles and two RBIs. Horner-Villa was 3 of 4 with a run and an RBI, while Ben Whitt finished 3 for 5 and scored twice. Allen went 2 of 4 with a double, a triple, one run and two RBIs.
Willamette used three pitchers. They combined for 12 strikeouts and just one walk, while allowing 14 hits. Starter Nathan Gilman (Sr., RHP, Chino Hills, CA/Diamond Ranch HS) struck out eight batters with no walks, as he tossed five innings. Linfield starter Colton Meyer also went five innings. He allowed no runs and one hit with three walks and six strikeouts.
The Bearcats are scheduled to open Northwest Conference play on Saturday, Feb. 23 with a doubleheader at University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. First pitch in set for 11 a.m. (PST). The teams will complete the three-game series on Sunday, Feb. 24 starting at 12 p.m.
Big Moment of the Game for Willamette
Justin Scanlon received a walk on a full-count pitch with the
bases loaded and two outs in the top of the ninth inning to
send Ethan Fischel across the plate with the go-ahead run in
Willamette's 9-8 win. Scanlon earned three RBIs during the
game, including two on a double in the seventh inning.