By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas -- Texas Lutheran University scored a pair of unearned run in the bottom of the seventh inning to take a 4-3 lead, and then held Willamette University without a hit in the final two innings to gain the win on Friday, Feb. 9 at AirHogs Stadium. The powerful offense of the Bulldogs earned 14 hits off Willamette starter Matt Steindorf (Jr., RHP, Granite Bay, CA/Granite Bay HS), but Steindorf kept the Bearcats in the game. Willamette led 2-1 after 5 1/2 innings and held a 3-2 lead after 6 1/2 innings.
The Bulldogs improved their record to 3-0 on the season. Willamette fell to 2-3 overall. The Bearcats will take on tournament host LeTourneau University (Texas) tonight at 6 p.m. CST/4 p.m. PST.
Neither team scored in the first three innings. Texas Lutheran moved in front 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth, when Tyler Caulery smacked a leadoff homer to left field. The Bulldogs hit two singles later in the inning, but were unable to increase their lead.
Willamette surged into a 2-1 lead with two runs on two hits in the top of the sixth. With two outs, Brendan Natuzzi (Jr., 3B, Napa, CA/Justin-Siena HS) was hit by a pitch. Cole Pursell (Jr., C, Oceanside, CAEl Camino HS) followed with a ground-rule double that was initially called a home run. With Tyler Vandemark (Fr., OF, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS) pinch-running at second and Natuzzi at third, Eric Del Prado (Sr., 1B, El Segundo, CALoyola HS) smashed a double down the right field line to bring home both runners.
Texas Lutheran tied the score in the bottom of the sixth, when Andrew Whitten hit a leadoff single, moved to second on a passed ball and scored on a single by Chad Curtis. Willamette regained the lead at 3-2 in the top of the seventh. Perry Van Eckhardt (Sr., CF, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS) singled to start the inning, and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Mason Fessler (Sr., DH/INF, Woodburn, OR/Blanchet Catholic School). A throwing error by the pitcher sent Van Eckhardt to third, and he scored on a sacrifice fly by Troy Conway (Sr., 2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS).
In the bottom of the seventh, Ben Marvin singled to left and Riley Schaefer hit an infield single toward third. Thomas Varner hit into a fielder's choice that resulted in Schaefer crossing the plate with the tying run. Marvin was thrown out at third at the end of the play. Matthew Lemon followed with a single through the right side that allowed Varner to score and put TLU ahead 4-3.
Dylan Drgac pitched the first seven innings for the Bulldogs and improved to 2-0 on the season. He allowed five hits and three runs -- two earned -- while striking out five batters. Nathan Malinovsky tossed the final two innings for his second save. Steindorf fell to 1-1 with the loss. Jett Gallagher (Sr., RHP, Santa Cruz, CA/Santa Cruz HS) tossed a scoreless inning for Willamette in the bottom of the eighth.
Varner was 3 of 5 at the plate for TLU, Cauley, Whitten and Eric Rabinowitz each registered two hits. For Willamette, Van Eckhardt was 2 of 4, while Del Prado finished 1 of 4 with a double and two RBIs. Pursell and Cameron Igarashi (Sr., RF, Honolulu, HI/Mid-Pacific Institute) each hit a double for the Bearcats.