By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
WHITTIER, Calif. -- Matt Steindorf (Sr., RHP, Granite Bay, CA/Granite Bay HS) struck out 10 batters over eight innings, and Connor Bailey (Sr., LF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) blasted a solo home run, as Willamette University opened the 2019 season with a 4-2 win over Whittier College on Friday, Feb. 8 at Hugh B. Mendez Stadium. Willamette is 1-0 and Whittier is 0-1.
The Bearcats trailed 2-1 after three innings, but scored one run in the top of the fourth and another run in the fifth to take a 3-2 lead. Bailey provided an insurance run when he smacked his solo homer with two outs in the top of the ninth. Brandon Murillo (So., RHP, Rancho Cucamonga, CA/Los Osos HS) pitched the bottom of the ninth to earn a save.
With the pitching victory, Steindorf moved into a tie for third with Nik Lubisich (1998-01) on Willamette's all-time list with 26 wins. Only Matt Kosderka (1995-98) with 30 and Abe Cohen (1994-97) with 27 have recorded more wins for the Bearcats. Murillo picked up the eighth save of his career and is tied for fourth all-time at Willamette. Bailey increased his career total to 23 home runs, while remaining fifth on the Bearcats' all-time list.
Steindorf registered his 10 strikeouts without allowing a walk. He gave up seven hits, one batter reached base on an error, and two batters were hit by pitches. Steindorf was credited with both runs (one earned). Whittier starter Alex Baez took the loss. He threw seven innings and allowed three runs (two-earned) along with six hits and six wallks. He hit one batter.
Willamette opened the scoring during its first trip to the plate. With one out, Tyler Janitz (Sr., SS, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS) pounded a double into right center. Bailey walked, and Justin Scanlon (Jr., INF/DH, San Jose, CA/Leigh HS/West Valley College) flied out, and then Brendan Natuzzi (Sr., 3B, Napa, CA/Justin-Siena HS) walked to load the bses. Cole Pursell (Sr., C, Oceanside, CA/El Camino HS) was hit by a pitch, which advanced all three runners, with Janitz crossing the plate.
The Poets tied the score in the bottom of the first. Nick Krska reached bas on an error at third with one out. After Brandon Mulrooney struck out, Alexander Jelloian was hit by a pitch, putting runners at first and second. Jacob Bauer singled to right center to drive in Krska.
In the top of the fourth, Willamette tied the score. Sam Hudd (Sr./Jr., INF, Evergreen, CO/Evergreen HS) walked to start the inning, and Tyler Vandemark (So., OF, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS) followed with a single. Joey Faudskar (Jr., OF/P, Phoenix, AZ/Pinnacle HS) hit a sacrifice bunt that was fielded by the pitcher to advance the runners. Janitz walked, loading the bases.
Bailey batted next and hit into a fielder's choice toward third, as the Poets threw out Hudd at the plate. Scanlon walked to bring home Vandemark. Whittier's defense got out of the inning without allowing another run, as Willamette left the bases loaded.
The Bearcats regained the lead in the fifth inning. Ethan Fischel (Fr., 2B, Eureka, CA/Eureka HS) singled up the middle with one out. An errant pickoff throw by Baez allowed Fischel to move all the way to third. Hudd followed with a sacrifice fly to center field to drive in Fischel.
Steindorf escaped a two-out jam in the bottom of the sixth, when Kellen Ward and John Vuz hit back-to-back singles. Vux and pinch-runner Zurie Clark were left at first and second when Jarryd Samsing struck out. Whittier managed just one hit in the final three innings.
Willamette increased its lead to 4-2 when Bailey powered the ball over the left field fence with two outs in the ninth. In the bottom of the inning, Murillo faced just three batters to record the save.
Fischel went 2 for 4 at the plate for Willamette, leading the Bearcats on their way to eight hits overall. WU finished with two extra-base hits on Bailey's home run and the double by Janitz. Vuz recorded Whittier's only extra-base hit, a double in the fourth inning.
The Bearcats will take on the Poets in a doubleheader on Saturday (Feb. 8). First pitch is set for 11 a.m. (PST).
Big Moment of the Game for Willamette
Connor Bailey, who hit 15 home runs last season, provided
another Big Moment with a solo homer for an insurance run
in the top of the ninth inning. He was the only player on either
team to earn a home run during the game. He now has 26
home runs in his career, tying him for third on Willamette's