Bearcats Clinch NWC Tournament Berth with 16-0 Win at Lewis & Clark

Connor Bailey (Jr., LF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS)
Connor Bailey (Jr., LF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Perry Van Eckhardt (Sr., CF, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS) opened the game with a solo home run, Connor Bailey (Jr., LF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) smacked two homers, Jack Brett (Sr., C, Aurora, CORegis Jesuit HS) belted one home run, and three Willamette University pitchers combined on a four-hit shutout, as the Bearcats defeated Lewis & Clark College, 16-0, in the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday, April 14. The win at the Huston Sports Complex clinched a Northwest Conference Baseball Tournament berth for the Bearcats. Starting pitcher Matt Steindorf (Jr., RHP, Granite Bay, CAGranite Bay HS) improved to 8-3 after tossing six scoreless innings.

The Bearcats won the second game, 12-7, by pounding out 12 hits and taking advantage of five errors by Lewis & Clark. Bailey and Brett each blasted another home run. Willamette and Lewis & Clark are scheduled to complete the weekend series with a single game at L&C on Sunday, April 15 at 12 p.m. (PDT).

"The offense continues to click," Willamette Head Coach Aaron Swick said. "Connor, Jack and Perry had bid ays at the plate. Steindorf was very efficient in his start. We are excited for the opportunity to play in the NWC Tournament next week."

Willamette improved to 22-14 on the season and to 14-9 in the NWC. Lewis & Clark slipped to 9-29 overall, 5-18 in the NWC.

Updated NWC standings after Saturday's games have Pacific Lutheran University in first at 18-6, Linfield College in second 15-8, Willamette in third at 14-9, and Whitman College tied with George Fox University for fourth at 12-11. The Bearcats will finish the regular season either tied for second place or in sole possession of third place.

The top four teams at the end of the regular season will advance to the NWC Tournament. Pacific Lutheran will host the tournament in Tacoma, Washington, from April 20 through April 22.

Bailey's three homers increased his season total to 11 home runs. He is tied with Max Stepan ('11) for seventh place on Willamette's single season home run list. Stepan hit 11 homers as a senior in 2011. Bailey also moved into a tie with Jason Searle ('02) for seventh place on the Bearcats' career list with 18 home runs.

Bearcats Earn 19 Hits, Belt Four Homers, in 16-0 Win in Opener

Willamette built a 6-0 lead after two innings in the first game and pulled away with two runs in the fourth, three runs in the fifth, and five runs in the seventh. Along the way, the Bearcats earned four doubles and four home runs, while piling up 19 hits. Van Eckhardt's leadoff homer to left field in the first inning provided early momentum.

The Bearcats tacked on five runs in the second inning. Mason Fessler (Sr., DH/INF, Woodburn, OR/Blanchet Catholic School) reached first on a throwing error by the third baseman. L&C recorded two quick outs on a fly ball to right and a line drive to left. Kyle Paguio (Jr., 3B, Stevenson Ranch, CA/West Ranch HS) walked, and Van Eckhardt hit an RBI single to center. Troy Conway (Sr., 2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS) followed with a two-run single before Bailey provided a two-run homer to left field.

Bailey's second homer of the afternoon drove in two runs in the fourth inning. In the fifth, Tyler Janitz (Jr., SS, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS) hit an RBI double down the right field line, while Van Eckhardt supplied a sacrifice fly and Conway recorded an RBI single. Willamette's five-run seventh inning featured a two-run double by Sam Hudd (Jr./So., UT, Evergreen, CO/Evergreen HS) and a towering three-run homer to right field by Brett.

For the Bearcats, Bailey was 3 of 5 with two homers, three runs scored and four RBIs. Van Ekchardt was 3 for 3 with a homer, plus four runs scored and three RBIs. Brett went 2 for 5 with a homer, two runs and three RBIs. A total of 11 players earned at least one hit for Willamette.

Meanwhile, Steindorf gave up no runs and only four hits in six innings. He struck out four batters and had no walks. Dawson Enright (So., RHP, La Mesa, CA/James Madison HS) tossed two innings, and Harbour Harrison (Jr., UT, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS) pitched in the ninth. 

Willamette Wins Second Game after Breaking 7-7 Tie in 8th Inning

The Bearcats led 7-1 after an inning and a half in the second game, but the Pioneers battled back to tie the score at 7-7 in the fifth. The Beacats regained an advantage with three runs in the eighth and added two runs in the ninth for a 12-7 win.

Bailey continued his success at the plate with a two-run homer to left field in the top of the first inning. Sean Little (Fr., 2B, Corvallis, OR/Crescent Valley HS) who singled with one out, also scored on the play.  L&C pulled within 2-1 in the bottom of the inning, when Chandler Vieira doubled with one out and scored on a single by Sean Shepherd.

Willamette used five hits and three errors to score five runs in the top of the second. Key hits were an RBI single by Little and an RBI double by Brett.

The rally by Lewis & Clark started with four runs in the fourth. Cameron Paton drove in two runs with a single, Kevin Jacos added an RBI double, and Vieira provided an RBI single. Cooper Larson smacked a two-run homer to left field to tie the game in the fifth.

Van Eckhardt batted first for WU in the eighth. He singled, stole second base and went to third. He scored on a single by Little for an 8-7 lead. A bit later, Eric Del Prado (Sr., 1B, El Segundo, CA/Loyola HS) earned his 41st RBI of the season on a sacrifice fly. Brett then belted a solo homer to right. Little hit a two-run double in the top of the ninth.

Six Bearcat pitchers combined for the win. Liam Keefe (Fr., LHP, Lake Arrowhead, CA/Rim of the World HS) received the win and is now 1-0 on the season. The Bearcats struck out five Pioneers and allowed three walks. L&C reliever Zach Merzlak fell to 0-2 with the loss.

Little, in his first start, went 4 of 6 for the Bearcats with a double, three runs and four RBIs. Van Eckhardt scored twice and was 3 for 6. Brett went 2 of 4 with a double, a homer and two runs. Bailey also hit a double and a home run, while going 2 of 4, scoring twice and earning two RBIs. For the Pioneers, Vieira went 3 of 5 with a double, a run and an RBI. Larson was 2 of 4 with his homer, two runs and two RBIs.