By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
CLAREMONT, Calif. -- Pomona-Pitzer (Calif.) scored four runs in the third inning and three runs in the fourth inning, as the Sagehens defeated Willamette University, 7-4, on Sunday, Feb. 4. Willamette led 2-0 after two-and-a-half innings, but Pomona-Pitzer scored four runs -- three unearned -- in the bottom of the third to move in front, and then maintained the lead for the rest of the game.
Nolan McCafferty hit a solo home run for Pomona-Pitzer to start the Sagehens' third at bat, while Jeremiah Quezada drove in the three unearned runs with a home run later in the inning. Connor Bailey (Jr., LF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) smacked two doubles and a triple during the game for the Bearcats, who outhit the Sagehens 13-7. Willamette ended its season-opening trip to Southern California with a 2-2 record. Pomona-Pitzer improved to 3-1.
Willamette starter Benjamin Whitten (So., RHP, Danville, CA/San Ramon Valley HS) went 3 2/3 innings and gave up all seven runs scored by the Sagehens, but only four runs were earned. The Sagehens registered all seven of their hits in the first four ininngs, with two hits in the second, three in the third, and two in the fourth. Three relief pitchers -- Austin Peters (Fr., RHP, Corona, CA/Norco HS), Joseph Faudskar (So., OF, Phoenix, AZ/Pinnacle HS), and Jett Gallagher (Sr., RHP, Santa Cruz, CA/Santa Cruz HS) -- held the Sagehens hitless over the final 4 1/3 innings. The Bearcats committed just one error, but it occurred with two outs in the third inning.
Overall, it was a mixed bag of good news and bad news for the Bearcats. Willamette pounded out five extra-base hits during the game, with three by Bailey, plus one double each by Cole Pursell (Jr., C, Oceanside, CA/El Camino HS) and Troy Conway (Sr., 2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS). The Bearcats finished their four-game trip with 26 hits in the final two games after managing just nine hits in the first two contests. Matt Steindorf (Jr., RHP, Granite Bay, CA/Granite Bay HS) produced a 1.80 earned run average as the starter in WU's victory in the season opener. Five other pitchers for the Bearcats contributed 0.00 ERA's while throwing at least one full inning over the weekend.
"The bats came alive early in the game for us," Willamette Head Coach Aaron Swick said. "Ultimately, we need to be more consistent in all phases of the game to be more successful. The team is looking forward to getting back to Salem and working hard this week in practice."
Bailey hit a double with one out in the first inning, but was left on base. In the second inning, the Bearcats had a chance to score after Pursell reached base on an infield error and Perry Van Eckhardt (Sr., CF, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS) followed with a single. One out later, Tyler Janitz singled to left center, but Van Eckhardt was thrown out between second and third. Pursell, who ended the play at third, was later thrown out attempting to steal home.
Willamette put up the game's first two runs in the top of the third on the strength of four hits. Conway began the stanza with a double to right field. Igarashi grounded out to third base, which advanced Conway to third. Bailey batted next and blasted an RBI triple to right. With two outs, Eric Del Prado (Sr., 1B, El Segundo, CA/Loyola HS) singled up the middle to drive in Bailey. Pursell doubled to left center, as Del Prado moved to third. Pomona-Pitzer's starter, Seth Stone, forced Van Eckhardt to fly out to center field to end the inning.
McCafferty's leadoff homer in the bottom of the third cut Willamette's advantage to 2-1. Two outs later, Jeremy Jess singled to left field, and the Bryce Rogan reached base on an error at second. Quezada followed with his three-run homer to center field. Cade Hulse flied out to center for the third out.
Janitz singled with one out in the top of the fourth, and Igrashi added another single with two outs, but the Bearcats did not score. In the bottom of the fourth, Pomona-Pitzer tallied two runs on a single down the right field line by Brian Knapp, and earned one run on a sacrifice fly by Jess. The Sagehens took a 7-2 lead into the fifth inning.
Pomona-Pitzer never recorded another hit, but the Sagehens kept their five-run lead until the top of the ninth inning. WU left two runners on base in the eighth after Pursell reached first and second on an error, and Mason Fessler (Sr., DH/INF, Woodburn, OR/Blanchet Catholic School) walked. The Sagehens recorded back-to-back outs to escape the threat.
With one out in the ninth, Igarashi hit an infield single to shortstop. Bailey doubled to left center, advancing Igarashi to third. Brendan Natuzzi (Jr., UT, Napa, CA/Justin-Siena HS) added a single through the left side, which brought Igarashi across the plate and left Bailey at third. Del Prado drove in Bailey with a sacrifice fly to center, cutting Pomona-Pitzer's lead to 7-4. Pursell popped up to first base for the final out of the game.
Stone pitched the first three innings for the Sagehens and allowed seven hits and two runs, while recording two strikeouts. Nicholas Radich allowed three hits and no runs during the next five innings. Peyton Holm tossed the ninth inning for Pomona-Pitzer to record his first save of the year.
Bailey was 3 for 5 at the plate for Willamette with his three extra-base hits, two runs and one RBI. Janitz was 2 for 4, while Igarashi and Natuzzi each went 2 for 5. Igarashi scored one run and Natuzzi recorded one RBI. Del Prado earned two RBIs. For Pomona-Pitzer, Quezada finished 2 of 4 with a homer, one run scored and three RBIs. No other Sagehen registered more than one hit. Knapp drove in two runs, while MCafferty homered once and scored twice.
The Bearcats will travel next weekend to play four games in Grand Prairie, Texas, at a tournament hosted by LeTourneau University. Willamette will open the weekend by taking on Texas Lutheran University on Friday, Feb. 9 at 2:30 p.m. CST/12:30 p.m. PST. Also on Friday, the Bearcats will battle LeTourneau at 6 p.m. CST/4 p.m. PST.