By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Starting pitchers Matt Steindorf (Sr., RHP, Granite Bay, CA/Granite Bay HS) of Willamette University and Justin Armbruester of Pacific Lutheran University were both throwing a no-hitter through five innings in a pitchers' duel at John Lewis Field on Friday, April 19. Pacific Lutheran took a 3-0 lead with one run in the sixth and two runs in the seventh. The Bearcats started to rally in the bottom of the seventh with a two-run homer by Cole Pursell (Sr./Jr., C, Oceanside, CA/El Camino HS), and took the lead with three runs in the eighth, on their way to a 5-3 victory over the Lutes.
The atmosphere at the Northwest Conference regular season game felt like it was a playoff, as both starting pitchers were great and athletes on both teams made key plays, before the home team rallied for the win. Willamette improved to 17-13 on the season and to 14-8 in the Northwest Conference. Pacific Lutheran fell to 20-14 overall, 12-10 in the NWC.
Tyler Janitz (Sr., SS, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS) earned the game-winning hit, a two-run single with one out and a 3-2 count in the bottom of the eighth, giving WU a 4-3 lead.
"We had big hits from Pursell and Janitz," Willamette Head Coach Aaron Swick said. "Matt gave us a great start and we played good defense again. It was great to battle through a great pitchers' duel."
Willamette and Pacific Lutheran will complete the three-game series with a doubleheader on Saturday. First pitch at John Lewis Field is set for 12 p.m. (PDT).
The first five innings were dominated by Steindorf and Armbruester, as only four runners reached base and none went past second. Steindorf threw eight innings with four stirkeouts and two walks. Armbruester went 7 1/3 innings and struck out nine batters with two walks. Steindorf improved to 7-2 on the season and increased his WU record for career victories to 32 wins.
In the top of the sixth, several close calls went PLU's way. The innning began with the game's first hit, a single by Jordan Haworth into left field. Austin Gormley batted next. On an attempted bunt, Gormley was originally called out for being hit by the batted ball in front of home plate, but the officials eventually ruled that he was still in the batter's box. Gormley went on to narrowly beat out a bunt toward third baseman Brendan Natuzzi (Sr., 3B, Napa, CA/Justin-Siena HS).
Marquez Carlson batted next and also bunted toward third. Natuzzi, who charged in early, quickly fielded the ball and threw to Janitz at third base, but Haworth just beat the throw. Carlson was credited with a sacrifice as a result of the fielder's choice.
With the bases loaded, Steindorf struck out Bockelie for the first out. Cesar grounded out to shortstop to send in Haworth with the game's first run. Scmitz flied out to end the inning.
The Lutes added two runs in the top of the seventh. Cameron Clem singled to start the frame, and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Tori Doten. Haworth drove home Clem with two outs on a double to center. Gormley reached base on an error at shortstop, with Haworth scoring an unearned run on the play. A single and a hit batter loaded the bases, but Seindorf caused Cesar to hit into a fielder's choice for an out at third.
Janitz opened the bottom of the seventh with Willamette's first hit, a single up the middle that Armbruester almost deflected as it went past the mound. Two outs later, Pursell smacked the ball over the fence in right center. The home run, Pursell's sixth of the season, pulled the Bearcats within 3-2.
Willamette plated three runs on one hit, five walks and an error. Sam Hudd (Sr./Jr., 1B, Evergreen, CO/Evergreen HS) began the innnig with a walk. Jack Garver (Fr., OF, Salt Lake City, UT/Skyline HS) pinch-ran for Hudd. Kyle Paguio (Sr., 3B, Stevenson Ranch, CA/West Ranch HS) followed with a sacrifice bunt in front of the plate, moving Garver to second. Alex Gregory replaced Armbruester on the mound for PLU.
Gregory attempted to pick off Garver, but the throw to second went into the outfield and Garver advanced to third. Joey Faudskar (Jr., OF/P, Phoenix, AZ/Pinnacle HS) and Tyler Kurata (So., LF, Seal Beach, CA/Los Alamitos HS) walked to load the bases. Janitz singled through the right side of the infield, with Kurata wisely avoiding the ball. Garver and Faudskar scored on the play, as Willamette grabbed a 4-3 lead.
Connor Bailey (Sr., CF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) reached base on a fielder's choice, as Janitz was thrown out at second and Kurata went to third. Justin Scanlon (Jr., 2B/DH, San Jose, CA/Leigh HS/West Valley College) walked to load the bases, and Andrew Curran pitched for PLU. Pursell also walked, forcing in Kurata and giving the Bearcats a 5-3 advantage.
In the top of the ninth, Jason Snare (So., LHP, Seattle, WA/Bainbridge Island HS) relieved Steindorf on the mound for Willamette. Snare forced Haworth and Gormley into ground outs, but Carlson was hit by a pitch and Bockelie walked. With the tying runs at first and second, Brandon Murillo (So., RHP, Rancho Cucamonga, CA/Los Osos HS) entered to the game to pitch for WU. He struck out Cesar to end the game and pick up his second save of the year. Gregory fell to 0-1 with the loss for the Lutes.
PLU outhit the Bearcats 6-3, but Pursell had the game's only home run and Janitz finished 2 for 3 at the plate with a run, a walk and two RBIs. Haworth was 2 of 4 for the Lutes with a double, two runs and an RBI.
Big Moment of the Day for Willamette
Tyler Janitz drove in the tying and winning runs with a single through
the right side of the infield with the bases loaded, a 3-2 count and one
out in the bottom of the eighth. The hit by Janitz gave Willamette a 5-3
lead. Earlier in the seventh, Janitz broke up a no-hitter for PLU with a
leadoff single. Also in the seventh, Janitz scored the Bearcats' first run
when Cole Pursell blasted a home run.