By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Whittier College (Calif.) scored two unearned runs in the top of the seventh inning to break a 4-4 tie, and the Poets went on to defeat Willamette University, 8-6, in a non-conference game at John Lewis Field on Thursday, March 21. Whittier improved its record to 7-8 overall, while Willamette fell to 10-8 on the season.
Willamette left fielder Tyler Kurata (So., Seal Beach, CA/Los Alamitos HS) stole a homer from Jacob Bauer in the second inning when Kurata caught the ball above the outfield fence.
Three Bearcats belted leadoff, solo home runs for Willamette. They were Ethan Fischel (Fr., 2B, Eureka, CA/Eureka HS) in the fourth inning, Connor Bailey (Sr., CF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) in the seventh inning, and Eric Waldichuk (Fr., 1B, San Diego, CA/University City HS) in the eighth inning.
In the top of the seventh, Mason Blansett reached first base on an error at shortstop to start the inning. He stolen second, and later moved to third after Bauer walked and Alexander Jelloian hit a bunt single toward third. Dane Goodman drove in Blansett with a ground out to second. Bauer scored on a sacrifice fly to center field, giving the Poets a 6-4 advantage.
Willamette pulled within 6-5 when Bailey launched the ball over the fence in the right field corner to open the bottom of the seventh.
The Poets pushed their lead to 8-5 with a pair of runs in the eighth. Brandon Mulrooney batted first and hit a single to right. Daniel Tuerffs advanced Mulrooney to second with a sacrifice bunt, before Nick Krska singled to center to place runners at the corners. Blansett was hit by a pitch, and then Bauer hit a two-run single up the middle, as Mulrooney and Krska score. Sean Little (So., RF, Corvallis, OR/Crescent Valley HS) made a nice catch in right field for the second out, and Goodman line out to shortstop to end the threat.
In the bottom of the eighth, Waldichuk blasted his leadoff homer to reduce Whitttier's margin to 8-6. Kurata hit an infield single between shortstop and third base with two outs, but was caught stealing to end the inning. Bailey singled with one out in the bottom of the ninth, but the Bearcats were unable to develop a rally. Whittier relief pitcher Justin Kottinger earned his first save of the year by allowing just two hits and no runs after entering the game following Woldichuk's homer.
The winning pitcher was Whittier's Alex Escobar (1-0), who pitched the final out of the fourth inning and went 2 1/3 innings overall. He gave up three hits and one run, while recording three strikeouts and a walk. Willamette reliever Trevor Burrows (Fr., LHP, Dayton, NV/Dayton HS) took the loss and fell to 0-1, but both runs against him were unearned.
Willamette scored first when Justin Scanlon (Jr., DH/2B, San Jose, CA/Leigh HS/West Valley College) walked with one out, stole second and reached home on a single by Tyler Janitz (Sr., SS, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS). The Poets answered with two runs in the second, but not until after Bauer's long ball was caught by Kurata with a runner at first. Jelloian batted next and hit a homer to nearly the same location, but this time it was just out of Kurata's reach for a two-run homer.
After scoring one run in each of the next two innings, Whittier held a 4-1 lead. In the third, two infield singles helped the Poets load the bases with one out. Tuerffs scored on a ground out by Bauer. In the fourth, Tanner Barnes reached first on an error and eventually scored an unearned run when Krska received a based-loaded walk.
The Bearcats fought back to tie the game by earning two runs in the fourth and one run in the sixth. Fischel belted his leadoff home run in the fourth for his first college homer. Waldichuk and Little both walked, before Cole Slater (Jr., C, Encino, CA/Campbell Hall HS) provided a sacrifice bunt toward first. Waldichuk scored on a sacrifice fly by Kurata.
In the sixth, Fischel batted first once again. He singled and then advanced to second when the ball was misplayed in left field. Fischel went to third on a wild pitch with two outs, and then scored to tie the game at 4-4 when Slater connected for an inifeld hit between the mound and first base.
Four Bearcats recorded two hits apiece. Slater went 2 for 2 with an RBI, and Kurata was 2 for 3 with an RBI. Bailey and Fischel each finished 2 of 4 with a homer. Waldichuk went 1 of 2 with a homer and two walks. Fischel and Waldichuk each scored two runs. For the Poets, Mulrooney was 3 of 6 with a run scored. Jelloian went 2 for 5 with a homer and two RBIs. Bauer led all players with three RBIs.
Willamette will take on Northwest Conference opponent Whitman College in three games this weekend in Walla Walla, Washington. On Saturday, March 23 the Bearcats will play the Blues in a doubleheader starting at 12 p.m. (PDT). The teams will complete the doubleheader on Sunday, March 24 with a single game at 12 p.m.
Big Moment of the Day for Willamette
Tyler Kurata made a highlight-reel catch when he caught a long
fly ball just above the left field fence to steal a home run from
Whittier's Jacob Bauer with a runner at first in the second inning.
Kurata also went 2 for 3 with an RBI at the plate.