By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
FOREST GROVE, ORE. -- Matt Steindorf (Jr., RHP, Granite Bay, CA/Granite Bay HS) of Willamette University struck out 14 batters while pitching the first nine innings, and the Bearcats went on to defeat Pacific University, 2-1 in 10 innings, in the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 24. Pacific edged the Bearcats, 4-3, in the second game.
Willamette concluded the day at 6-7 on the season, 2-3 in the Northwest Confefence. Pacific moved to 8-5 on the season, 4-1 in the NWC. The teams will conclude the series with a single game on Sunday, Feb. 25, starting at 5 p.m. (PST). The game was originally scheduled to begin at 12 p.m., but the start time was changed in hopes of avoiding significant precipitation.
In the top of the 10th inning of the opener, Brendan Natuzzi (Jr., P/3B, Sonoma , CA/Justin-Siena HS) blasted a double for the Bearcats and later scored on a single by Tyler Janitz (Jr., SS, Salida, CA/Joseph A. Gegori HS).
Brandon Murillo (Fr., RHP, Rancho Cucamonga, CA/Los Osos HS) recorded three outs in the bottom of the 10th for Willamete to earn his third save and secure the win after Steindorf's outstanding start. Steindorf upped his record to 3-1 with the win.
Bearcats Win First Game, 2-1, with Run by Natuzzi in 10th Inning
Willamette took a quick lead in the first game. Cameron Igarashi (Sr., RF, Honolulu, HIMid-Pacific Institute) batted first and walked. Perry Van Eckhardt (Sr., CF, El Cerrito, CAEl Cerrito HS) also walked. Connor Bailey (Jr., LF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) batted next and put the ball into play. An error by the third baseman allowed Igarashi to reach third and put runners on all three bases. Eric Del Prado (Sr., 1B, El Segundo, CA/Loyola HS) followed with a sacrifice fly to right field to drive home Igarashi.
The Beacats held their 1-0 lead until the bottom of the ninth. In between, Steindorf excelled on the mound, striking out at least one batter in all nine innings he pitched. Steindorf registered two strikeouts in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth innings. His 14 strikeouts set a career high and were the most by a Willamette pitcher in the last 12 years.
Steindorf allowed just one hit in the first eight innings, a single by Von Ferguson with two outs in the bottom of the second. Ferguson's hit followed a walk by Derek Ridgway and preceded Dustin Meyer being hit by a pitch to load the bases. Steindorf got Max Nealon to fly out to right field to end the threat.
Willamette left three runners on base in the top of the third. Bailey singled near home plate to start the stanza. He went to second on a ground out by Del Prado, and advanced to third on a single by Natuzzi. Later, Janitz received a walk with runners at second and third and two outs, loading the bases. Mason Fessler (Sr., DH/INF, Woodburn, OR/Blanchet Catholic School) flied out to right field for the third out.
Derek Legeza opened the bottom of the ninth for Pacific with a triple to right field. Steindorf struck out Dylan Wright. Drew Fagerness hit a fielder's choice, with Willamette attempting to throw out Legeza at the plate. Legeza beat the throw and tied the score at 1-1. A fly out and a foul out ended the inning.
Willamette's winning rally began with two outs in the top of the 10th when Natuzzi doubled to left field. Jack Brett (Sr., C, Aurora, CO/Regis Jesuit HS) was intentionally walked, bringing Janitz to the plate. Janitz singled to right field to drive in Natuzza with the go-ahead run. Pinch-hitter Kyle Underwood (Fr., C, Highland, CA/Citrus Valley HS) followd with a single to center, but Brett was thrown out at the plate.
Murillo forced Ridgway to fly out and caused Ferguson to ground out to shortstop when Pacific began batting in the bottom of the 10th. Murillo struck out pinch-hitter Cade Willkins to end the game. The strikeout by Murillo gave Willamette 15 total strikeouts with at least one strikeout in all 10 innings. Steindorf and Murillo combined for a two-hitter.
Natuzzi finished the game 4 of 4 at the plate, including two doubles. Janitz went 2 of 4.
Pacific Evens Series by Winning the Second Game, 4-3
In the second game, Fagerness doubled to left field in the first inning to bring Wright across the plate, giving Pacific a 1-0 lead. Janitz singled for Willamette in the top of the second, while Nicholas Di Fiori (Fr., DH, Monrovia, CA/Bishop Amat HS) followed with a double to right and Troy Conway (Sr., 2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS) hit a sacrifice fly to center. Janitz scored to tie the game.
Willamette grabbed a 3-1 lead in the third. With one out, Bailey blasted a home run to break the tie. With two outs, Underwood singled and eventually scored on a single by Janitz. Pacific tied the game with a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning. Meyer walked to open the frame. Legeza sent a double to center field. Meyer reached home on a ground out by Wright, while Legeza scored on a single by Fagerness.
The winning run was scored by Pacific in the fifth. Relief pitcher Jason Snare (Fr., LHP, Seattle, WA/Bainbridge Island HS) struck out the first batter and Legeza singled to the mound. Snare tacked on another strikeout, but threw wildly on a pick-off play at first, allowing Legeza to rech third. Legeza crossed the plateon a single to right by Fagerness. WU had runners at first and second in a top of the sixth, but a double-play ended the threat. Pacific reliever Cole Kanasawa, who threw the final four innings and recorded his fourth save, did not allow a hit in the seventh, eighth or ninth innings.
Sam Lawrence, who started on the mound for the Boxers, improved to 3-0 on the season, while allowing eight hits and three runs. Willamette starter Benjamin Whitten (So., RHP, Danville, CA/San Ramon Valley HS) allowed six hits and three runs in four innings. He struck out four batters and allowed one walk. Snare took the loss and fell to 0-1.
Both teams pounded out nine hits. Legeza went 3 of 4 with two runs and a double for Pacific. Fagerness was 3 of 4 with a double and three RBIs. For Willamette, Janitz was 2 for 3 with a run and an RBI, while Fessler went 2 of 4. Bailey's homer was his third of the season.