By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University built a 4-0 lead in the first two innings and led 4-2 after six innings, before the Bearcats received a two-run homer from Connor Bailey (Jr., LF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) and a solo homer by Jack Brett (Sr., C, Aurora, CO/Regis Jesuit HS) to score three of WU's final four runs in an 8-3 win over Swarthmore College at John Lewis Field on Friday, March 16. The afternoon match-up opened a three-game weekend series. Willamette improved to 9-11 on the season, while Swarthmore fell to 9-3.
Jason Snare (Fr., LHP, Seattle, WA/Bainbridge Island HS), who pitched the first seven innings for Willamette, evened his record at 1-1 with the win. He allowed just five hits and two runs -- one earned -- while striking out three batters with no walks. Swarthmore starter Ricky Conti gave up just four runs -- three earned -- in the first six innings, but was on the mound for all three of the Bearcats' runs in the seventh. Conti moved to 3-1 on the season.
The series is set to conclude with a doubleheader at John Lewis Field on Saturday, March 17. First pitch has been moved to 11 a.m. (PDT), one hour earlier than originally scheduled due to the threat of rain.
Willamette took a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Cameron Igarashi (Sr., RF, Honolulu, HI/Mid-Pacific Institute) singled and Troy Conway (Sr., 2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS) walked to start the stanza. The runners advanced one base on a wild pitch. Igarashi scored on a ground out by Bailey and Conway crossed the plate on a ground out by Eric Del Prado (Sr., 1B, El Segundo, CA/Loyola HS).
Brendan Natuzzi (Jr., 3B/P, Sonoma, CA/Justin-Siena HS) reached first on a fielding error by the second baseman. Brett singled through the left side to move Natuzzi to third. Tyler Janitz (Jr., SS, Salida, CA/Gregori HS) brought Natuzzi home with a single to right field.
In the bottom of the second, Perry Van Eckhardt (Sr., CF, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS) walked and stole second base. Van Eckhardt scored one out later on a single by Del Prado to give WU a 4-0 lead.
AJ Liu of Swarthmore hit a single to start the game, but the Garnet did not register another hit until the fifth inning. In the fifth, Conor Elliott singled with one out. James Rutledge also singled. Rutledge was thrown out at second and Elliott reached third when Coleson Hebble hit into a fielder's choice. With Matt Palmer batting, a throw from home to pick-off Hebble was misplayed at first and Eliott scored. In the sixth, Swarthmore cut WU's margin to 4-2 when Liu doubled with one out and scored on a single by Jared Gillen.
Willamette took charge of the game in the seventh. Van Eckhardt singled to get the inning underway. Igarashi used a sacrifice bunt to move Van Eckhardt to second. Conway drove in Van Eckhardt with a single to right center. Bailey batted next and blasted his two-run homer to left field. It was Bailey's team-leading fiffh home run of the season, and gave the Bearcats a 7-2 lead.
A walk and a fielding error put two runners on base for Swarthmore in the top of the eighth. Liu then sent a fly ball into right field that was tailing toward the foul line. Igarashi made an all-out diving catch with the ball barely foul. Michael Sepe tagged and went to third, while Charles Levitt stayed at first.
Sepe scored on a sacrfice fly by Gillen, but Levitt ran to second base. Van Eckhardt, who caught the fly in center field, threw to Del Prado at first, who tagged out Levitt for a double play. Gillen reached home before Willamette completed the non-force double play, so the run counted.
Brett's solo home run to right field in the eighth completed the scoring, as the Bearcats outhit the Garnet, 9-5 overall. Del Prado was 2 of 4 with two RBIs and 14 putouts at first base. Brett finished 2 for 4 with a home run. Bailey was 1 for 3 with a homer and a total of three RBIs. Conway and Van Eckhardt each scored twice. Liu was the only Swarthmore player with more than one hit. He was 2 of 4 with a double and a run scored.
Willamette relievers Jett Gallagher (Sr., RHP, Santa Cruz, CA/Santa Cruz HS) and Brandon Murillo (Fr., RHP, Rancho Cucamonga, CA/Los Osos HS) each pitched one hitless inning. Gallagher allowed the unearned run in the eighth. On defense, Natuzzi contributed seven assists, including several exceptional plays.