By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM Ore. -- Eric Waldichuk (Fr., 1B, San Diego, CA/University City HS) blasted a grand slam to top off a five-run fifth inning, as Willamette University pulled away from Lewis & Clark College for a 17-3 win in the first game of a doubleheader at John Lewis Field on Saturday, March 2. The Bearcats pounded out 14 hits in the win. In the second game, Willamette took advantage of nine hits and four L&C errors to defeat the Pioneers, 9-5.
The Bearcats advanced their record to 7-3 on the season, 4-1 in the Northwest Conference. Lewis & Clark dropped to 1-10 overall, 0-5 in the NWC. The teams will complete the series with a game on Sunday, March 3, starting at 12 p.m. (PST).
"It was great to be back at home," Willamette Head Coach Aaron Swick said. "The crowd was awesome. Lots of different players contributed."
Nine Bearcats Score at Least One Run in First Game
Willamette took a 2-1 lead in the first game by scoring twice in the third inning. Waldichuck walked to start the stanza. He went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Tyler Vandemark (So., LF, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS) and score don a double by Kyle Paguio (Sr., 3B, Stevenson Ranch, CA/West Ranch HS). Paguio moved to third on a wild pitch and scored when Connor Bailey (Sr., CF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) singled to center.
Jack Thomson of L&C belted a solo homer in the top of the fourth inning to create a 2-2 tie. In Willamette's next at bat, Sean Little (So., INF, Corvallis, OR/Crescent Valley HS) smacked a solo homer to right field to move the Bearcats back in front 3-2.
Willamette surged out to an 8-2 margin after plating five runs in the fifth. Waldichuk's grand slam was the big hit, but the first run scored earlier in the inning.
With one out, Tyler Janitz (Sr., SS, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS) singled near first and Justin Scanlon (Jr., 2B/DH, San Jose, CA/Leigh HS/West Valley College) sent a single to left. Ethan Fischel (Fr., INF, Eureka, CA/Eureka HS) walked, and then Little also walked to force home Janitz. Waldichuk batted next and cleared the bases with his home run to right field.
Lewis & Clark scored once in the top of the sixth, but the Bearcats tallied five runs in the bottom of the inning for a 13-3 advantage. Scanlon drove in Cole Pursell (Sr./Jr., C, Oceanside, CA/El Camino HS) with the first run on a fielder's choice that also resulted in the second out of the inning. Fischel reached first on an error by the second baseman, while Scanlon moved to third. Little received a base on balls, and then Waldichuck followed with a two-run single to center. Later in the inning, Vandemark and Paguio tacked on RBI singles.
The Bearcats continued to pull away with four runs in the eighth. Pinch-hitter Brendan Natuzzi (Sr., 3B, Napa, CA/Justin-Siena HS) walked, and later scored when Tyler Kurata (So., INF, Seal Beach, CA/Los Alamitos HS) reached base on a fielding error at third. Fischel batted next and hit a three-run double to right field.
Five Bearcats each contributed two hits during the game. Waldichuk was 2 for 3 with a homer, three runs scored, two walks and six RBIs. Also earning two hits were Paguio, Pursell, Janitz and Scanlon. Thomson and Cooper Larson both went 2 of 4 with a run scored for the Pioneers. Thomson hit a double and a homer, while driving in two runs. WU starting pitcher Matt Steindorf (Sr., RHP, Granite Bay, CA/Granite Bay HS) went 6 2/3 innings and improved to 3-0 on the season with six strikeouts and one walk.
Nelson Strikes out Nine, Bailey Hits Two Doubles, in Second Game
L&C took a 2-0 lead in the second game after scoring once in the second inning and once in the third. Cole Petters hit a double in the second and scored when Tyler Gannon grounded out to shortstop. In the third, Matt Donovan singled and eventually scored on a double down the left field line by Sam Helms.
Willamette scored the next nine runs by plating four in the fourth, one in the fifth, and four in the sixth.
In the fourth, the Bearcats took advantage of three errors by Lewis & Clark, plus a hit batsman and a balk. Pursell reached base to open the inning on a fielding error at second base. Later, fly balls were dropped by the second baseman and the right fielder. All four runs were unearned. Kyle Underwood (So., C, Highland, CA/Citrus Valley HS) recorded the inning's only RBI on a sacrifice fly.
Bailey doubled to start the fifth, went to third on a wild pitch with one out, and scored on a suicide squeeze-bunt by Janitz. Bailey contributed a two-run double in the sixth, scoring Underwood and Waldichuk. An error at the end of the play allowed Paguio to score, while Bailey went to third. Janitz drove in Bailey with a ground out.
L&C scored two runs in the eighth. After pulling within 9-5 on an RBI double by Petters with one out in the ninth, the Pioneers saw their rally end with a strikeout and a fly out.
Willamette starter Brandon Nelson (Sr., RHP, Murrieta, CA/Vista Murrieta HS) struck out nine batters while allowing seven hits, three walks and two runs in six innings. He improved to 1-2. Relief pitcher Liam Keefe (So., LHP, Lake Arrowhead, CA/Rim of the World HS) registered his first save of the year by pitching the final three innings. Bailey went 2 of 5 with two doubles, two runs and two RBIs to lead the offense. Seven other Bearcats each recorded one hit. Petters was 3 of 5 with two doubles, two runs and an RBI for L&C.
Big Moment of the Day for Willamette
Grand slams are pretty rare in baseball. They require three runners
on base and a big hit by the batter. So, it shouldn't be a surprise
that the grand slam by Eric Waldichuk would lead to him receiving
today's Big Moment. Waldichuck sent the ball over the right field
fence to bring home four runs in the bottom of the fifth. Waldichuk
ended the game 2 for 3 with two walks, three runs and six RBIs.