Bearcats Battle Wind and Cold Weather to Defeat Hardin-Simmons, 14-3, in Texas

Brandon Nelson (Jr., RHP, Murrieta, CA/Vista Murrieta HS)
Brandon Nelson (Jr., RHP, Murrieta, CA/Vista Murrieta HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas -- The Willamette University baseball team overcame cold and windy coniditions to roll past Hardin-Simmons University (Texas), 14-3, on a night game on Saturday, Feb. 10 at AirHogs Stadium. Brandon Nelson (Jr., RHP, Murrieta, CA/Vista Murrieta HS), who started on the mound for the Bearcats, allowed just two runs -- one earned -- in six innings. Both teams battled the weather, which included a 32-degree temperature and plenty of wind.

Even so, the Bearcats gained a 9-8 edge in hits during the game. Willamette also received 11 walks and took advantage of five errors by the Cowboys. Bearcat pitchers walked five batters, but also recorded eight strikeouts. The WU defense committed only one error. Pitchers for the Cowboys earned 11 strikeouts, but couldn't overcome the walks and the errors by the HSU defense.

Willamette upped its record to 3-4 on the season. Hardin-Simmons slipped to 1-1.

The teams combined for 17 runs, but there were no extra-base hits. Connor Bailey (Jr., LF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) went 2 for 5 at the plate with two RBis for Willamette. Perry Van Eckhardt (Sr., CF, El Cerrito, CAEl Cerrito HS) was 1 for 2 with two walks, two runs and four RBIs. Tyler Janitz (Jr., SS, Modesto, CAJoseph A. Gregori HS) scored twice and was 2 for 4 at the plate with one walk.

Kyle Underwood (Fr., C, Highland, CA/Citrus Valley HS), Troy Conway (Sr., 2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS) and Cameron Igarashi (Sr., RF, Honolulu, HI/Mid-Pacific Institute) joined Van Eckhardt and Janitz as Bearcats who scored two runs. Willamette led 4-0 after two innings, 7-2 after six innings. The Bearcats pulled away with seven runs in the top of the seventh.

Willamette scored two runs in each of the first two innings with only one hit in each stanza. In the first, Van Eckhardt walked, stole second, reached third on a wild pitch, and scored on a single by Bailey. Brendan Natuzzi (Jr., 3B, Napa, CA/Justin-Siena HS), who walked prior to Bailey's single, later scored on a wild pitch. In the second frame, Janitz started the action with a bunt single toward third. Underwood walked and Igarashi walked one out later to load the bases. Janitz scored on a wild pitch. Underwood crossed the plate when Van Eckhardt sent a sacrifice fly to center field.

Hardin-Simmons tallied one run in the fourth inning, but Willamette extended its lead to 7-1 by scoring three times in the sixth. Van Eckhardt provided the key hit with a two-run single to center. Natuzzi added an RBI single. The Cowboys scored once in the bottom of the sixth. John Tople walked with one out and eventually scored on a single by Garrett Buckner.

The 7-run seventh inning for Willamette featured just one hit by the Bearcats -- a single by Bailey to bring in the final run -- while HSU committed three errors. The Bearcats also benefited from four walks, including three to start the inning, plus one hit batsman and one wild pitch. Five of the runs were unearned. The big inning propelled the Bearcats into a 14-2 lead. Hardin-Simmons score the game's final run in the bottom of the eighth.

Nelson evened his record at 1-1 with the pitching victory. He gave up six hits and four walks, while also striking out four batters. Nathan Gilman (Jr., RHP, Chino Hills, CA/ Diamond Ranch HS) struck out four more batters and did not allow a walk, while throwing for the Bearcats in the seventh and eighth innings. Liam Keefe (Fr., LHP, Lake Arrowhead, CA/Rim of the World HS) closed out the game by allowing one walk and no hits in the ninth.

HSU starter Taylor McMackin felll to 0-1 despite allowing just three hits and earning six strikeouts. McMackin walked four batters and was credited with the first four Willamette runs.

Willamette will conclude its four-game trip to Texas on Sunday, Feb. 11, when the Bearcats will take on Hendrix College (Ark.). Game time at AirHogs Stadium is set for 10 a.m. CST/8 a.m. PST.