By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Mason Fessler (Jr., DH/INF, Woodburn, OR/Blanchet Catholic School) blasted a two-run homer to left center in the eighth inning and connected for a game-winning sacrifice fly in the ninth inning, as Willamette University rallied from a 3-0 deficit to defeat Lewis & Clark College, 4-3, on Friday, April 14 at John Lewis Field. Fessler's sacrifice fly with one out and the bases loaded drove in Cameron Igarashi (Jr., OF, Honolulu, HI/Mid-Pacific Institute) to end the game.
Willamette trailed 3-0 after 7 1/2 innings, but scored three runs in the eighth. In the bottom of the ninth, Perry Van Eckhardt (Jr., OF, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS) was intentionally walked to load the bases. Fessler sent a 3-1 pitch into deep center field to bring home Igarashi. WU is 10-2 in the Northwest Conference this season in games decided by one run.
The Bearcats improved to 24-12 overall and to 16-6 in the NWC. Willamette remained one game behind Linfield College (17-5) at the top of the NWC standings with two games remaining for both teams on Saturday. Pacific Lutheran University completed NWC action a week ago and is in third place at 17-7.
Matt Steindorf (So., RHP, Granite Bay, CA/Granite Bay HS), who threw all nine innings for the Bearcats, advanced his record to 7-2. He registered eight strikeouts with no walks on 102 pitches. Willamette outhit L&C, 10-6.
Lewis & Clark fell to 7-29 on the season, 5-17 in the NWC. Robert Reaser, who started for the Pioneers pitched a complete game with nine strikeouts. His record moved to 3-5 on the season. He threw 148 pitches.
The Pioneers moved in front 2-0 in the top of the fifth. Cooper Larson singled to center field to start the stanza. One out later, Sean Shepherd also singled. Tommy Massari hit a high fly ball near the plate that looked like it would be foul until it fell just in front of the plate, as Jack Brett (Jr., C, Aurora, CO/Regis Jesuit HS) was unable to make the catch.
It was not clear if an infield fly was called, so Brett threw to third, where Aaron Fong (Jr., INF, Honolulu, HI/Punahou School) touched the bag, but did not tag the runner. Eventually, Massari was out on the infield fly, Cooper advanced to third and Shepherd went to second. Ben Beck drove in both runners with a single to right. Beck was picked off at first to end the inning.
Shepherd hit a single as the first batter in the eighth inning. He went to second on a sacrifice by Massari. Beck hit a doble to right center, but Van Eckhardt nearly made a catch, so Shepherd had to stop at third. He scored on a sacrifice bly by Chandler Vieira.
Van Echkhardt countered with a base hit to right field to begin the bottom of the inning. Fessler blasted his fifth home run of the season to cut L&C's lead to 3-2. One out later, Connor Bailey (So., OF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) belted a triple to center and scored when the relay throw went out of play.
Matthew Donovan doubled for the Pioneers with one out in the top of the ninth, but Steindorf struck out Larson and forced Akira Abderrahman to fly out to center.
In the bottom of the ninth, Igarashi hit a leadoff single up the middle. Fong singled on a sacrifice bunt when the catcher -- Larson -- fielded the ball and was bumped near the first base line by Massari, who was charging in from third base. Igarashi and Fong completed a double-steal when Troy Conway (Jr., INF, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS) missed on an attempted bunt.
Reaser eventually struck out Conway, but the intentional walk to Van Eckhardt was next and loaded the bases. Fessler followed with the game-winning sacrifice fly.
Van Eckhardt, Bailey and Fong each registered two hits in four at bats for the Bearcats. Fessler earned three of Willamette's four RBIs. Shepherd was 2 for 3 with two runs scored for L&C, while Beck went 2 for 3 with two RBIs.