By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University received great pitching from starters Matt Steindorf (Sr., RHP, Granite Bay, CA/Granite Bay HS) and Brandon Nelson (Sr., RHP, Murrieta, CA/Vista Murrieta HS) on Saturday, March 30 against Pacific University. Steindorf tossed 9 2/3 innings in the opener, before the Boxers won 3-2 in 10 innings. Nelson threw all nine innings in the second game, helping the Bearcats defeat Pacific, 8-1.
The Bearcats smacked three home runs during the doubleheader. Connor Bailey (Sr., CF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) blasted his seventh homer of the season in the first game. During the second game, Justin Scanlon (Jr., 2B/DH, San Jose, CA/Leigh HS/West Valley College) pounded out his second home run and Cole Pursell (Sr./Jr., C, Oceanside, CA/El Camino HS) launched his fourth home run -- both during a five-run fourth inning.
Willamette ended the day at 12-13, including 9-8 in the Northwest Conference. Pacific went to 18-11 overall, 10-4 in the NWC. The teams will play the final game in the series on Sunday, March 31 at John Lewis Field, starting at 12 p.m. (PDT).
"We pitched really well today," Willamette Head Coach Aaron Swick commented. "Justin, Connor and Cole had huge hits in the second game. Nelson was fantastic."
Steindorf and Brown Battle in Pitchers' Duel in First Game
The first game was anticipated to be a pitchers' duel between two of the top throwers in the NWC in Steindorf and Pacific's Casey Brown. The game lived up to its billing, as both starters lasted all nine innings of regulation play. When the game went into the 10th inning, Steindorf pitched two more outs, while Brown gave way to relief pitcher Liam Cammall.
Willamette scored one run in the first inning. Scanlon hit a leadoff single up the middle and Bailey walked. Pursell moved up both runners with a sacrifice bunt. Scanlon scored on a ground out by Tyler Janitz (Sr., SS, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS).
The Boxers tied the game in the fourth and took a 2-1 lead in the fifth. Brad Altomare began the fourth with a single. Ian Blair and Bryan Krout also singled to drive Altomare across the plate. Steindorf escaped with a flyout and two ground outs. In the fifth, Chase Anderson was hit by a pitch, advanced two bases an errant pick-off, and scored on a wild pitch.
Bailey tied the score with one swing of the bat when he blasted the first pitch over the left field fence to start the bottom of the sixth. Neither team scored during the next three innings, although each team had a chance to score in the ninth.
Brandon Slowatka was at second with two outs in the ninth for Pacific. Jacob Igawa singled to left, but Slowatka had to hold, and was later picked off by Pursell. For WU, Janitz belted a leadoff double and Sam Hudd (Sr./Jr., 1B, Evergreen, CO/Evergreen HS) was hit by a pitch. Natuzzi was out on a foul bunt, before Brown caused a line-drive out and a strikeout.
With two outs in the top of the 10th, Drew Fagerness walked and Dylan Morgan pinch-ran. Morgan went to third on a single by Blair, and scored when Krout singled. In WU's half of the 10th, Scanlon was hit by a pitch with one out. He went to second on a ground out by Bailey and reached third on a wild pitch. Pursell popped up to shortstop for the final out.
Steindorf fell to 5-2 with the loss. He struck out seven batters, while allowing seven hits and three walks. Reliever Brandon Murillo (So., RHP, Rancho Cucamonga, CA/Los Osos HS) struck out the only batter he faced. Hudd recorded 18 putouts at first base. Brown of Pacific improved to 5-1. He registered seven strikeouts and two walks, and held WU to six hits.
Nelson, Scanlon, Pursell and Bailey Lead Bearcats in Win
Willamette had both its pitching and batting in high gear for the second game, and the result was an 8-1 victory. Nelson's complete-game effort featured four strikeouts and one walk. He allowed seven hits. Meanwhile, his teammates on offense massed 13 hits. Bailey was 4 for 5, Scanlon went 3 for 5, and Pursell was 2 of 4. In addition, Brendan Natuzzi (Sr., 3B, Napa, CA/Justin-Siena HS) belted two doubles.
Pacific took a 1-0 lead with its only run of the game in the second inning. Hayden Wright was hit by a pitch, went to second on a single by Jordan Hara, and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Von Ferguson. Wright scored when Derek Legeza reached base on an error at third.
WU plated two runs in the third inning to move in front. With one out, Scanlon and Bailey smacked consecutive doubles down the left field line. Scanlon scored on the hit by Bailey. Later in the inning, Pursell drove home Bailey with a single to right.
The Bearcats surged out to a 7-1 lead by scoring five times in the bottom of the fourth. Natuzzi connected for a leadoff double to left center. Joey Faudskar (Jr., OF/P, Phoenix, AZ/Pinnacle HS) hit a bunt single, sending Natuzzi to third. Tyler Vandemark (So., LF, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS) hit a sacrifice bunt to put Faudskar at second. Scanlon batted next and blasted a three-run homer to right center. Bailey singled, and went to second on a sacrifice bunt from Janitz. Pursell swatted a two-run homer to left.
Scanlon singled in the sixth and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Pursell to complete the scoring. Scanlon's 3-for-5 performance included three-fourths of the cycle with a single, double and home run. He scored three runs and earned three RBIs. Bailey's 4-for-5 effort featured a double, two runs and an RBI. Pursell was 2 of 4 with a run and a game-high four RBIs. Natuzzi was 2 of 4 and scored once. For Pacific, Blair finished 2 for 3.
Big Moment of the Day for Willamette
Brandon Nelson pitched all nine innings and allowed just one
run, as the Bearcats defeated Pacific, 8-1, in the second game.
It was the fourth complete game of Nelson's career. He struck
out four Boxers and gave up just one walk, while limiting Pacific
to seven hits.