By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- Eric Del Prado (Jr., INF, El Segundo, CA/Loyola HS) pounded out five hits in six at bats, including a two-run homer, to lead Willamette University to an 11-6 victory in the first game of a doubleheader at Occidental College on Sunday, March 19. Occidental won the second game, 5-4.
In the first game, Occidental held a 3-2 advantage after six innings, but Willamette grabbed the lead with two runs in the seventh, and then pulled away with three runs in the eighth and four runs in the ninth. Del Prado's homer drove in the first two runs in the eighth inning. By the time the Tigers scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth, the Bearcats were already in control.
The second game went just seven innings to allow Willamette to catch its return flight to Oregon. WU scored one run in the top of the seventh for a 4-3 lead, but the Tigers plated two runs in the bottom of the inning.
Willamette ended the weekend with an 16-8 overall record, including 2-2 in the Southern California Classic. Occidental's record moved to 14-7 on the season.
Del Prado's Big Game Leads Bearcats to Win in Opener
The Bearcats scored in their first trip to the plate. Troy Conway (Jr., 2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS) hit a leadoff single. He went to second a sacrifice bunt by Connor Bailey (So., LF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS), and moved to third on a single by Del Prado. Conway scored on a gournd out to second base, by Mason Fessler (Jr., INF, Woodburn, OR/Blanchet Catholic School).
Occidental tied the score in the bottom of the first. With one out, Bryan Smith doubled to left field. He advanced to third on a passes ball. Devon DeRaad walked, before Smith scored on a second passed ball.
Three and a half scoreless innings followed. In the bottom of the fifth, Jared Bauer batted first for the Tigers and doubled to center field. He went to third on a single by Jack Brancheu and scored on a squeeze bunt by Smith.
WU tied the score in the top of the sixth. Jack Brett (Jr., C, Aurora, CO/Regis Jesuit HS) walked. He moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Tyler Janitz (So., SS, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS). Later in the inning, Brett scored from third base on a single to right by Perry Van Eckhardt (Jr., OF, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS).
The Tigers regained the lead at 3-2 in the next half inning on a solo home by Jamie Cooper. Willamette tallied the next nine runs and held an 11-3 lead entering the bottom of the ninth.
Two runs on one hit and two errors in the seventh gave the Bearcats the lead for good. Bailey was hit by a pitch to open the frame. Del Prado singled to right field. An error at third on a bunt by Fessler loaded the bases. One out later, Janitz hit into another error at third base. Bailey and Del Prado scored on the play.
In the eighth, Kyle Paguio (So., 3B, Stevenson Ranch, CA/West Ranch HS) singled and went to second on a sacrfice bunt by Conway. One out later, Del Prado his his two-run homer. Fessler walked, stole second, and was replaced by pinch-runner Aaron Fong (Jr., INF, Honolulu, HI/Punahou School). Fong went to third and scored on an error by the catcher.
The top of the ninth included two hits and two errors. Paguio and Van Eckhardt each drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, and one run scored on a passed ball. With two outs and the bases empty, Bailey doubled to left and went to third on an error. Del Prado hit an RBI single to third.
Middle reliever Dawson Enright (Fr., RHP, La Mesa, CA/James Madison HS) pitched 5 1/3 innings for the Bearcats to earn the win. He is 1-0 on the season. Enright allowed four hits and two runs, while recording three strikeouts.
Del Prado's 5-for-6 effort at th plate helped Willamette outhit the Tigers, 12-7. Del Prado scored two runs and earned three RBIs. Conway and Van Eckhard each went 2 for 5 with a run and an RBI. Brancheau was 2 of 3 with a run and three RBIs for Occidental.
Denyer Pitches Complete Game as Tigers Gain Split
In the second game, Occidental pitcher Cade Denyer threw all seven innings. He allowed four runs -- three earned -- on five hits and one walk. He registered three strikeouts and went to 1-0 on the season.
The Tigers took a 3-0 lead after two innings, but the Bearcats rallied to tie the score with single runs in the third, fifth and sixth innings.
Brancheau walked, reached second on a sacrifice bunt, and scored on a double by Eamon McNeil in the first inning. In the second stanza, Michael Netz added an RBI double and Smith provided an RBI single for Occidental.
Bailey homered as the leadoff batter for Willamette in the third inning. Bailey hit into an error with Cameron Igarashi (Jr., RF, Honolulu, HI/Mid-Pacific Institute) at third base in the fifth to cut the Tigers' advantage to 3-2. Fessler blasted a leadoff homer run in the sixth to tie the score.
In the top of the seventh, Paguio went to first base on an error at shortstop with one out. With two outs, Paguo stole second base, and then scored on a single by Bailey to give Willamette a 4-3 lead. After Bailey stole second, Del Prado flied out to end the inning.
Smith singled for Occidental to open the bottom of the seventh. DeRaad also singled, and then McNeil walked to load the bases. Derek Sun walked to force home Smith with the tying run. Graham Pimm popped up for the first out. Cooper pinch-hit and connected for a single to left that allowed pinch-runner Reid Gibbs to score the winning run.
Bailey was 3 of 4 for the Bearcats with a homer, one run and three RBIs. Fessler went 1 for 3 with a home run. Bailey now has four homers and Fessler has two homers this season.
The Tigers outhit Willamette 10-5 in he second game. Smith was 2 for 3 with a run and an RBI. Liam Fischer also went 2 for 3.
Up Nex for the Bearcats
Willamette is scheduled to return to Northwest Conference action with a three-game series at George Fox University next weekend. The Bearcats and the Bruins will play two games on Saturday March 25 in Newberg, Oregon, starting at 12 p.m. (PDT). The series will end with one game on Sunday, March 26, also at 12 p.m.