Linfield Wins Pitching Duel with Bearcats in Third Game of Series, 3-0

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

SALEM, Ore. -- Linfield College pitcher Carter Buuck tossed a complete-game 1-hitter to lead the Wildcats to a 3-0 win against Willamette University in the third game of a Northwest Conference series on Sunday, Feb. 18 at John Lewis Field. Linfield prevailed in the series 2-1. The Wildcats improved to 7-4 overall and to 2-1 in the NWC. Willamette fell to 5-6 on the season, 1-2 in the NWC.

Buuck threw 117 pitches and struck out six batters, while allowing four walks. He moved his record to 2-0 on the season. Eric Del Prado (Sr., 1B, El Segundo, CA/Loyola HS) recorded Willamette's only hit on a single up the middle in the fourth inning.

Willamette starter Brandon Nelson (Jr., RHP, Murrieta, CA/Vista Murrieta HS) was credited with all three runs created by Linfield, but made scoring difficult for the Wildcats despite allowing nine hits in six innings. Nelson forced the Wildcats to leave nine runners on base while he was on the mound. Nelson struck out four batters and gave up three walks.

Relievers Harbour Harrison (Jr., UT, El Cerrito, CAEl Cerrito HS) and Jett Gallagher (Sr., RHP, Santa Cruz, CASanta Cruz HS) combined to keep Linfield off the scoreboard over the final three innings, while allowing a total of just two hits. The Wildcats left 13 runners on base during the game.

"Their pitcher was very good today," Willamette Head Coach Aaron Swick said. "Our guys battled, but we haven't played our best baseball yet."

Prior to Sunday's regularly scheduled game, the Bearcats and the Wildcats completed the suspended second game from Saturday's doubleheader. Linfield was leading 18-1 on Saturday when play was suspended due to darkness with two outs in the top of the eighth inning. When play resumed on Sunday, the Wildcats added two runs in the ninth inning to win the game 20-1. Willamette won the first game of the series on Saturday, 5-3, behind the strong pitching of starter Matt Steindorf (Jr., RHP, Granite Bay, CA/Granite Bay HS).

Buuck Leads Wildcats to Win by Pitching One-Hitter

Linfield's one-hitter by Buuck gave the Wildcats an edge even though Willamette pitchers allowed just three runs in the final game of the series. Buuck's successful pitching also allowed Linfield to overcome its 13 runners left on base.

The Wildcats took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Brady Rediger singled to open the game and then went to second base when Alex Cook walked. Ryan Ross hit into a fielder's chose, with Rediger advancing to third, while Cook was thrown out at second. Daniel Zavala hit a sacrifice fly to center field to bring Rediger across the plate.

Brendan Natuzzi (So., UT, Napa, CA/Justin-Siena HS) became Willamette's first base runner with one out in the second inning when he reached first and second on a throwing error by the shortstop. Jack Brett (Sr., C, Aurora, CO/Regis Jesuit HS) lined out to left field and Tyler Janitz (Jr., SS, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS) grounded out to end the inning.

Cameron Igarashi (Sr., RF, Honolulu, HI/Mid-Pacific Institute) reached first base for the Bearcats in the third inning on a fielding error by the third baseman with two outs. Igarashi moved to second on a wild pitch, before Buuck forced Perry Van Eckhardt (Sr., CF, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS) to ground out.

Del Prado earned his hit with one out in the fourth inning, but was unable to score. Natuzzi flied out to right center for the second out. Jack Brett (Sr., C, Aurora, CO/Regis Jesuit HS) hit into a fielder's choice that resulted in Del Prado being thrown out at second.

Linfield extended its lead to 3-0 in the top of the sixth. With one out Jake Dennis sent a single into center field. Jake Gellos batted next and belted a two-run homer to left field.

For the game, Linfield had three players with two hits apiece. Gellos was 2 of 4 including his homer. Dennis and Ross each finished 2 of 5.

Linfield Wins Suspended Game that Started on Saturday

The Wildcats also scored once in the first inning of the second game in the series. That game started in the middle of Saturday afternoon, was suspended by darkness later in the day, and was completed on Sunday. Cook, who reached base on a one-out single to center field and went to third on a single by Ross, scored the first run. Cook crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly by Zavala that was caught by Igarashi in foul territory.

The score remained 1-0 until the top of the fifth, when the Wildcats tacked on two runs. Alex Hendra-Brown hit a leadoff homer to center. Dennis batted next and reached base on a throwing error. He scored an unearned run two outs later on a single by Cook.

Linfield increased its lead to 6-0 with three runs in the sixth. The first run was driven in by Hendra-Brown with a sacrifice fly. The other two runs scored on a pair of wild pitches.

Joseph Faudskar (So., OF, Phoenix, AZ/Pinnacle HS) of Willamette singled to start the next half-inning. Faudskar didn't spend much time on base, as Del Prado followed with an RBI double down the right field line. Natuzzi reached first on a fielding error with two outs, sending Del Prado to third. Both runners were left on base.

The Wildcats pulled away with 12 runs in the eighth inning. Eight of the runs were unearned against Willamette's team total. Zavala drove in the final three runs of the inning with a homer to left field just before the game was suspended. When play resumed on Sunday, Levi Horner-Villa batted first and flied out to right field to end the inning. Linfield added two runs in the ninth.

WU starter Benjamin Whitten (So., RHP, Danville, CA/San Ramon Valley HS) pitched 4 2/3 innings. He allowed six hits and three runs -- two earned  -- with one strikeout and one walk. Cason Cunningham, who started for Linfield, pitched into the sixth. He allowed one run and four hits, while recording eight strikeouts and one walk.

Up Next for the Bearcats

Willamette is scheduled to play a three-game Northwest Conference series at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, on Saturday, Feb. 24 and Sunday, Feb. 25. First pitch is set for 12 p.m. (PST) each day.