Bearcats Win 8-4 in Opener against Bruins; Brett Goes 4 for 4, Bailey is 3 for 5

Jack Brett (Sr., C, Aurora, CO/Regis Jesuit HS)
Jack Brett (Sr., C, Aurora, CO/Regis Jesuit HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University batters piled up 14 hits and starting pitcher Matt Steindorf (Jr., RHP, Granite Bay, CA/Granite Bay HS) battled for eight innings, as the Bearcats defeated George Fox University, 8-4, in the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday, March 24 at John Lewis Field. The Bruins led 4-1 after four innings in the second game when it was suspended due to rain.

The Bearcats upped their record to 14-11 by winning the opener and moved to 6-7 in the NWC. George Fox fell to 14-10 overall, 8-8 in the NWC. Saturday's second game will be completed on Sunday, March 25 starting at 11 a.m. (PDT) prior to the teams playing Sunday's regularly scheduled series finale.

Half of Willmette's hits came from the duo of #3 hitter Connor Bailey (Jr., LF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) followed by #4 hitter Jack Brett (Sr., C, Aurora, CO/Regis Jesuit HS). Brett went 4 for 4 at the plate with a run and an RBI before leaving the game with an inury following his fourth hit. Bailey was 3 for 5 with three runs scored, a stolen base, and an RBI.

Steindorf allowed six hits and four runs -- three earned -- during his eight innings on the mound. He registered one strikeout and two walks, while throwing 120 pitches for the Bearcats. He improved to 5-3 on the season. Dawson Enright (So., RHP, La Mesa, CA/James Madison HS) faced just three batters and recorded one strikeout in the ninth inning.

Jeered Seamons of GFU began the first game with an infield hit toward shortstop. He moved to second on a sacrifice bunt AJ Valencia and went to third on a single by Sam Swenson. Seamons later scored on a passed ball, as the Bruins took a 1-0 lead.

Willamette answered in the bottom of the first by moving in front 2-1. With two outs, Bailey and Brett hit back-to-back singles up the middle. Bailey went to third on the single by Brett. Brendan Natuzzi (So., 3B/P, Napa, CA/Justin-Siena HS) followed up with a double near the right field line to bring Bailey across the plate. Brett scored when Eric Del Prado (Sr., 1B, El Segundo, CA/Loyola HS) hit into a fielding error at second base.

Matt Voelzke belted a solo home run to left field with two outs in the top of the second for a 2-2 tie. It was his second home run of the season.

Matt Steindorf (Jr., RHP, Granite Bay, CA/Granite Bay HS) In the bottom of the third, Bailey sent a leadoff single to left field. Brett also singled, advancing Bailey to third. Natuzzi walked to load the bases, and Del Prado also walked, forcing Bailey home for a 3-2 lead. A double play -- one of three turned by the Bruins during the game -- plus a strikeout ended the inning.

The Bearcats plated three runs in the fourth inning for a 6-2 advantage. Joseph Faudskar (So., OF/P, Phoenix, AZ/Pinnacle HS) opened the frame with a single to center. Cameron Igarashi (Sr., RF, Honolulu, HI/Mid-Pacific Institute) advanced Faudskar to second with a sacrifice bunt. Faudskar scored on a double down the left field line by Troy Conway (Sr., 2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS). A single by Bailey allowed Conway to cross the plate. Bailey stole second base and then scored on a single down the left field line by Brett.

Two errors helped George Fox score the second of two runs in the top of the seventh, but the Bearcats countered with two runs of their own in the bottom of the seventh.

With one out in the Bruins' half of the inning, Dillon Blankenship smacked a solo homer over the left field fence. Later, with two outs and CJ Ibara pinch-running at second, Turner Glenn hit a ball that was tipped by Steindorf's glove and then misplayed near second base. As Ibara turned past third and started toward home, shortstop Tyler Janitz (Jr., SS, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS) threw to the plate, but the ball was high and went off Brett's glove. Ibara scored on the play.

Brett started the bottom of the inning with his fourth single of the game. He went to third on a double by Natuzzi before giving way to pinch-runner Tyler Vandemark (Fr., OF, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS). One out later, Janitz sent a sacrifice bunt far enough onto the turf for a charging Vandemark to score. Janitz was thrown out at first, but Natuzzi also scored on the play for an 8-4 lead.

Although Brett and Bailey led the Willamette offensive effort, three other Bearcats contributed two hits. Natuzzi was 2 of 3 with two doubles, a run scored and an RBI. Faudskar went 2 of 4 and scored a run. Conway was 2 of 5 with a double, a run and an RBI. Seamons was the only GFU player with more than one hit. He was 2 of 4 with a run scored.

GFU starter Alex Jondal took the loss and fell to 3-3. He allowed 13 hits and eight runs -- seven earned -- in six innings. Jondal recorded five strikeouts and gave up two walks.