By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University battled back from a 6-0 deficit for an 8-6 win in the second game of a Northwest Conference doubleheader against University of Puget Sound on Monday, April 9, as the Bearcats completed a 3-0 sweep of the Loggers. Willamette won the first game of Monday's doubleheader, 10-2, after taking the first game of the series, 8-2, on Sunday.
The Bearcats improved to 20-14 for the season, including 12-9 in the NWC. Puget Sound fell to 15-17 overall, 9-12 in the NWC.
In Willamette's rally in the final game of the series, the Bearcats scored six runs in the fifth inning, including a two-runner homer by Jack Brett (Sr., C, Aurora, CO/Regis Jesuit HS) to take a 7-6 lead. The Bearcats extended their advantage to 8-6 in the seventh. Willamette relief pitcher Brandon Murillo (Fr., RHP, Rancho Cucamonga, CA/Los Osos HS) pitched the final two innings for his second save of the day. In the top of the ninth, Puget Sound had the bases loaded with two outs, but Murillo got Ryan Moyes to fly out to second base and then struck out pinch-hitter Jake Brady to end the game.
With the series sweep, the Bearcats moved into a tie with Whitman College (12-9) for third place in the NWC standings. The Bearcats and the Blues are one game behind Linfield College, which holds second place at 13-8. Pacific Lutheran University leads the NWC with an 18-6 record and has completed its conference schedule. The top four teams in the final regular season standings will qualify for the NWC Tournament, which will be hosted by PLU from April 20-22.
Willamette outhit Puget Sound 13-6 in the first game on Monday, led by Connor Bailey (Jr., LF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) who went 3 for 3 with three runs, two walks and one RBI. The Bearcats broke a 2-2 tie with one run in the third inning and then added single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth for a 6-2 lead. The Bearcats pulled away with four runs in the eighth.
"It was another total team effort," Willamette Head Coach Aaron Swick said. "Connor Bailey and Jack Brett had great days at the plate. We have a 'next man up' mantra, and today that was evident (due to injuries). Brandon Murrillo and Nathan Gilman (Jr., RHP, Chino Hills, CA/ Diamond Ranch HS) were huge out of the bullpen."
Bearcats Steadily Pull Away for 10-2 Win in First Game
Willamette scored two runs in the first inning of the opner on back-to-back RBI singles by Bailey and Eric Del Prado (Sr., 1B, El Segundo, CA/Loyola HS). Puget Sound took advantage of two Willamette errors two score two unearned runs in the top of the second on an RBI ground out by Nolan Wiler and a single by Connor Dunn.
Three Bearcat pitchers kept the Loggers off the scoreboard for the rest of the game. Starter Brandon Nelson (Jr., RHP, Murrieta, CA/Vista Murrieta HS), who improved to 5-5 with the win, went six innings while allowing only the two unearned runs. He registered three strikeouts, walked two batters and allowed five hits. Jason Snare (Fr., LHP, Seattle, WA/Bainbridge Island HS) pitched in the seventh inning and gave up two walks in the eighth. Murillo entered the game for the final six outs and struck out three batters on his way to a save.
WU took the lead for good in the third inning when Troy Conway (Sr., 2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS) walked, went to second ona single by Bailey, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a ground out by Del Prado.
In the fourth, Brett singled and later scored on a wild pitch. In the fifth, Bialey scored on a single by Del Prado, and in the sixth, Cameron Igarashi (Sr., RF, Honolulu, HI/Mid-Pacific Institute) scored on a single by Aaron Fong (Sr., SS, Honolulu, HI/Punahou School) for a 6-2 lead. The four-run outburst by the Bearcats in the eighth inning included a two-run single by Conway and a two-run double by Brett.
Bailey's 3-for-3 performance was part of a strong offensive attack for the Bearcats during the game. Brett finished 3 for 5 with a double, one run scored and two RBIs. Del Prado went 2 for 4 and drove in three runs. Joseph Faudskar (So., OF/P, Phoenix, AZ/Pinnacle HS) was 2 for 4 and scored twice. Jack Gries of Puget Sound was 2 of 4 for the Loggers.
Brett and Van Eckhardt Hit Homers in Second Game
The rally by Willamette from a 6-0 deficit into an 8-6 win in the second game featured Brett's two-run homer in the six-run fifth inning, plus a solo homer by Perry Van Eckhardt (Sr., CF, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS) for an insurance run in the seventh.
Puget Sound grabbed a big lead in the first inning. The Loggers scored five runs -- two earned -- on two Willamette errors, two hits on the infield, and a double that went through the infield near third base. Kyle Strash drove in one run on a fielding error, Tyler Brazelton brought home two runs with the double, and Moyes added an RBI on a sacrifice fly. The Loggers added a run in the second when Cal Muramaru hit an infield single to third base, stole second, reached third on a single by Hunter Riley and scored on a fielder's choice.
Brett scored an unearned run for the Bearcats in the bottom of the second after starting the inning with a single down the right field line. Brett reached second on an error when Igarashi hit into a fielder's choice. Van Eckhardt sacrifice bunted the runners to second and third, and Brett scored on a ground out by Kyle Paguio (Jr., 3B, Stevenson Ranch, CA/West Ranch HS).
Willamette's fifth inning surge began with back-to-back singles by Faudskar and Conway, followed by an RBI double from Brett. Del Prado drove in a run with a ground out, and then Brett smacked his two-run home run to right field. Later, Paguio sent a run across the plate with a squeeze bunt and Fong drove in a run with a single. Van Eckhardt's solo homer to right field in the seventh inning provided the Bearcats with a two-run lead.
Middle reliever Nathan Gilman, now 2-1, pitched 5 1/3 innings for the Bearcats and allowed no runs and two hits. He struck out one batter and had four walks. Liam Keefe (Fr., LHP, Lake Arrowhead, CA/Rim of the World HS) tossed 2/3 of an ininng to get through the eighth, and Murillo pitched the ninth to earn his fifth save of the season.
Van Eckhardt went 3 of 4 with a homer, two runs and an RBI for Willamette. Conway, Bailey and Brett each earned two hits. Brett's home run was his sixth of the season, helping him finish the game with two runs and two RBIs.. For Puget Sound, Hunter Riley was 3 of 5 with a double and a run scored, while Brazelton went 2 of 5 with a run and two RBIs.
Up Next for the Bearcats
Willamette will complete its regular season NWC schedule with three games Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, this weekend. The Bearcats and the Pioneers will play a doubleheader on Saturday, April 14 at 12 p.m. (PDT). The teams will play a single game on Sunday, April 15, also starting at 12 p.m.