By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Tyler Janitz (So., SS, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS) scored on a sacrifice fly by Perry Van Eckhardt (Jr., OF, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS) in the bottom of the ninth inning to send Willamette University past Lewis & Clark College, 4-3, in the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday, April 15 at John Lewis Field.
In the second game, Troy Conway (Jr., 2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS) smashed a three-run homer in the fifth inning and Van Eckhardt followed with a solo homer leading WU to a 7-3 win.
The Bearcats swept all three Northwest Conference games from the Pioneers this weekend. Willamette concluded the regular season at 26-12 overall and 18-6 in the NWC. The Bearcats placed second in the final NWC standings, one game behind Linfield College, which won the regular season title with a 19-5 record. Linfield defeated Whitman College 7-2 and 4-1 on Saturday to clinch the title. Pacific Lutheran University placed third at 17-7.
Willamette has its most wins since going 29-16 overall and winning the NWC championship at 18-6 in 2001. The Bearcats have won at least 20 games in eight of the past 10 seasons.
Linfield will host the 2017 NWC Baseball Tournament at Roy Helser Field in McMinnville, Oregon, from Friday, April 21 through Sunday, April 23. On Friday, #1-seeded Linfield will take on #4-seeded Whitworth University at 2 p.m. (PDT) and #2-seeded Willamette will battle #3-seeded Pacific Lutheran University at 5 p.m.
Bearcats Prevail 4-3 in Opener for 11th One-Run Win in NWC
Willamette rallied from a 3-2 deficit by scoring once in the eighth inning and once in the ninth for a 4-3 win in the first game. The Bearcats improved to 11-2 in NWC games decided by one run this season. It was the team's sixth walk-off victory in conference play.
The Pioneers broke a scoreless deadlock by scoring one run in the fourth inning. Matthew Donovan walked with one out. Akira Abderrahman singled down the right field line to send Donovan to third. Sean Shepherd drove in Donovan with a single through the left side.
WU had just two hits through the first five innings off starter Andrew Yarak of L&C, but recorded three hits with two outs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 2-1 lead. Eric Del Prado (Jr., 1B, El Segundo, CA/Loyola HS) singled to center, and then went to third on a double by Connor Bailey (So., LF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS). Cole Pursell (So., C, Oceanside, CA/El Camino HS) pounded a two-run double to right center.
Lewis & Clark regained a one-run lead by plating two runs with two outs in the eighth. Abderrahman started the rally with a single down the left field line. Cameron Paton pinch-ran for Abderrahman. Shepherd belted a two-run homer to right center, giving the Pioneers a 3-2 edge.
In the bottom of the eighth, Van Eckhardt hit a leadoff single to center. He stole second, and went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Mason Fessler (Jr., DH/INF, Woodburn, OR/Blanchet Catholic School). Del Prado sent a sacrifice fly to left center and Van Eckhardt tied the game.
Willamette's half of the ninth inning began with Janitz powering a double near the right field line. Aaron Fong (Jr., 3B, Honolulu, HI/Punahou School) provided a sacrifice bunt, with Janitz taking third. Conway followed with an infield single that hit the pitcher, but Janitz could not advance. Van Eckhardt hit a long fly ball to left center to drive in Janitz for a 4-3 win.
Pursell was 2 for 3 with a double and two RBIs for WU. Conway went 2 for 5. Shepherd was 2 for 5 with a home run, three RBIs and a run scored. Abderrahman went 2 for 4.
Jett Gallagher (Jr., RHP, Santa Cruz, CA/Santa Cruz HS) received the win for the Bearcats and improved to 5-1 on the season. WU starter Brandon Nelson (So., RHP, Murrieta, CA/Vista Murrieta HS) allowed just five hits and one run in seven innings. He struck out five batters.
Bearcats Pull Away with 5 Runs in Fifth Inning of Second Game
Willamette held a slim 1-0 lead after scoring a run in the bottom of the fourth inning of the second game. The Bearcats tacked on five more runs in the fifth inning to take charge, and starting pitcher Benjamin Whitten (Fr., RHP, Danville, CA/San Ramon Valley HS) left the game after seven innings with a 6-0 lead.
Conway walked to start the fourth inning for Willamette. He went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Van Eckhardt. Fessler belted a double to left field to drive in Conway with the Bearcats' first big hit of the game.
Willamette produced five unearned runs in the fifth inning after Janitz and Fong each reached base on an error by an infielder with one out. Jack Brett (Jr., C, Aurora, CO/Regis Jesuit HS), who walked to start the stanza, scored when Fong hit into the second error. Conway connected for a three-run homer to right field and Van Eckhardt blasted a solo shot down the right field line. It was Van Eckhardt's team-leading sixth home run of the year.
Conway added an RBI single for the Bearcats in the bottom of the eighth for a 7-0 advantage. Tommy Massari of Lewis & Clark smacked a three-run homer to left field in the top of the ninth.
Whitten improved to 5-1 on the season. He struck out four batters and allowed only five hits -- all singles. Mason Cook (Fr., RHP, Riverton, UT/Riverton HS) pitched a scoreless eighth inning. L&C starter Drake Gilliland fell to 0-7 with the loss.
For Willamette, Conway went 2 of 4 with a homer, two runs and four RBIs. Fong was 2 of 4 with a run scored. Fessler's output also was 2 of 4, plus a double and an RBI. Conner Sick of L&C was 2 of 3, while Abderrahman and Massari each went 2 of 4.