By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University trailed #15-ranked Linfield College by just a 3-0 margin after three innings in the first game and the Bearcats led 1-0 after two innings in the second game, but the Wildcats prevailed 6-2 and 11-1 on Saturday, March 30 at WU Softball Field. Linfield won the second game on the run rule in five innings.
The Wildcats advanced to 20-4-1, including 13-1 in the Northwest Conference. Linfeld was ranked #15 this week in the NCAA Division III Top 25 Poll released by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association. Willamette fell to 3-22 overall, 2-12 in the NWC. The teams will complete the four-game series with a doubleheader at Willamette on Sunday, March 31, starting at 12 p.m. (PDT).
"We faced a tough opponent today," Willamette Head Coach Damian Williams said. "I love seeing these kids fight. Their resilience and mental toughness will come through in the end."
For the Bearcats, Kelsey Wong (Fr., UT, Honolulu, HI/Punahou School) belted a triple in the first game and Payten Healy (Fr., SS, Crescent City, CA/Del Norte HS) smacked a triple in the second game. Linfeld's Abi Proffitt blasted two homers in the opener, and Katie Phillips homered for the Wildcats in the second game.
Proffitt's Two Homers Help Linfield in First Game
Linfield won the first game behind the strong pitching of Shelby Saylors along with the two home runs by Proffitt. Neither team scored in the first inning, but the Wildcats tallied three runs in the top of the second, with Proffitt driving in two of the runs with a homer to center field. Paige Smotherman followed with a double down the left field line, and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Kelsey Wilkinson.
After a scoreless third inning, the Wildcats added two runs in the fourth. Smotherman was hit by a pitch to start the inning. One out later, Maddy Colson singled to left field, and then Phillips sent a double into left center, allowing Smotherman to score. Colson went to third on the play, and scored on a sacrifice fly to right field by Wilkinson.
The Bearcats reduced the five-run lead to three runs by pulling within 5-2 in the bottom of the fourth. Bailey Hillmick (So., DP/UT, Athena, OR/Weston-McEwen HS) pounded a double to right field with one out. Jewel Fleckenstein (Fr., UT, Wasilla, AK/Mat-Su Middle College School) pinch-ran for Hillmick and scored when Wong tripled to left center. Cassie Cosler (Fr., 1B, Albany, OR/West Albany HS) tacked on an RBI single to center to drive in Wong.
Linfield scored the game's final run in the top of the fifth on a solo homer by Proffitt with two outs. The Bearcats earned just one base runner in the final three innings.
Saylors (10-3) pitched all seven innings for the Wildcats. Morgan Penn (Jr., P/1B, Beaverton, OR/Southridge HS) of Willamette, who tossed the first five innings, fell to 0-2. Proffitt was 2 of 4 with two homers, two runs and three RBIs for Linfield. Smotherman was 2 for 3 with a double and two runs. Katie Phillips went 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI.
Wong led WU with a 2 for 2 effort that included a triple, a sacrifice bunt, one run and one RBI. Hillmick was 1 for 2 with a double and a walk.
Bearcats Lead Early in Second Game, before Wildcats Rally
Willamette took a 1-0 lead in the first inning of the second game, but Linfield rallied by shutting out the Bearcats the rest of the way. Emily Bishop (Sr., OF, Maple Valley, WA/Tahoma HS/Pierce College) walked to start the bottom of the first. Healy also walked one out later. A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third. Bailey Hillmick (So., DP/UT, Athena, OR/Weston-McEwen HS) was hit by a pitch, loading the bases. Wong also was hit by a pitch, which brought Bishop across the plate.
Linfield relief pitcher Eliza Rossman entered the game and recorded back-to-back outs to end the threat. The Bearcats kept their one-run advantage through the second inning, and almost extended their lead after Bishop reached base on a dropped fly ball with two outs. Bishop then went to third on a single to right field by Jocelyn Glasgo (Jr., P, Rochester, WA/Tumwater HS). Bishop attempted to score on the play, but the Wildcats threw her out at the plate.
The Wildcats' offense took off with four runs in the third inning and six runs in the fourth. Phillips began the third inning with a solo home run to center field. Wilkinson doubled near the left field line, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Darian Stedman. Later in the inning, Proffitt drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, and Cameron Apling added an RBI single. In the fourth, four Willamette errors led to four unearned runs. The Wildcats earned two hits during the inning, including a two-run single by Smotherman.
After plating six runs in the fourth, Linfield owned a 10-1 lead. Stedman tallied the final run for the Wildcats in the top of the fifth when she scored on a double-steal.
Stedman finished 3 of 4 for Linfield with an RBI and three runs. Makenna Clitzer and Smotherman each registered two hits. A trio of Linfield pitchers held the Bearcats to a total of two hits, including Healy's triple in the third inning.
Big Moment of the Day for Willamette
Kelsey Wong smashed an RBI triple in the fourth inning of
the first game. She went on to score for the Bearcats on
a single by Cassie Cosler. Wong was 2 for 2 at the plate
during the game. She earned two putouts at third base in
the first game, and contributed three putouts and an assist
in the second game.