Bearcats Hold off Blues for 9-7 Win, before Whitman Takes 2nd Game, 4-2

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

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications, (503) 370-6110

WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Willamette University built a 6-1 lead in the first five innings, and then held off Whitman College for a 9-7 win over the Blues in the first game of a Northwest Conference doubleheader at Borleske Stadium on Saturday, March 23. Whitman led 4-0 after five innings in the second game, before defeating the Bearcats, 4-2. 

By splitting the doubleheader, the Bearcats moved to 11-9 overall, 8-6 in the NWC. Whitman ended the day at 10-13 on the season and 5-6 in the NWC. The Bearcats and Blues will complete the series with a game on Sunday, March 24 starting at 12 p.m. (PDT).

For Willamette in the first game, Connor Bailey (Sr., CF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) blasted his sixth homer of the year and Sean Little (So., RF, Corvallis, OR/Crescent Valley HS) smacked his second homer. Justin Scanlon (Jr., 2B/DH, San Jose, CA/Leigh HS/West Valley College) and Cole Pursell (Sr./Jr., C, Oceanside, CA/El Camino HS) each doubled. Bailey hit a double in game two.

WU starter Matt Steindorf (Sr., RHP, Granite Bay, CA/Granite Bay HS) improved to 5-1 with the win in the opener. It was Steindorf's 30th career win, tying him with Matt Kosderka (1995-98) for the Willamette record. On Saturday, Steindorf threw seven innings and allowed five runs -- three earned -- with five strikeouts and one walk.

"These were two good baseball games against a quality team," Willamette Head Coach Aaron Swick said. "I'm looking forward to possibly winning a series tomorrow. We had lots of different contributors on offense in the opener."

Homers by Bailey and Little Lead Bearcats in First Game

The top five hitters in Willamette's batting order in the first game each recorded two hits to lead a 13-hit attack. They also combined for six runs and six RBIs in the 9-7 win. While the top of the order provided much of the firepower, including's Bailey's homer, other batters also contributed, including Little, who hit his homer from the ninth spot in the order.

Willamette produced the game's first run in the second inning. Pursell walked to open the stanza, and went to second on a ground out. With two outs, Pursell scored when Kyle Paguio (Sr., 3B, Stevenson Ranch, CA/West Ranch HS) singled to left. In the third inning, Little blasted a solo homer. One out later, Bailey, Scanlon and Pursell hit consecutive singles, with Bailey scoring on Pursell's drive into left field.

Jake Wishart of Whitman doubled in the bottom of the third and later scored on a squeeze bunt by Brett Williams to cut Willamette's lead to 3-1.

The Bearcats answered in the fifth by sending three runners across the plate for a 6-1 advantage. After Tyler Kurata (So., LF, Seal Beach, CA/Los Alamitos HS) singled, Bailey belted a two-run homer. Scanlon followed with a double and went to third on a wild pitch. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Tyler Janitz (Sr., SS, Modesto, CA/Joseph A. Gregori HS).

Whitman scored two runs in the sixth inning and two in the seventh to pull within 6-5. In the sixth, Matthew Sox hit an RBI single and one run scored on a fielder's choice. In the seventh, Kyle Reisman hit an two-run single.

In the eighth inning, the Bearcats scored three runs for a 9-6 lead. Pursell doubled to center, went to third on a bunt single by Janitz, and scored when Ethan Fischel (Fr., 2B, Eureka, CA/Eureka HS) singled up the middle. Janitz was thrown out when Kyle Paguio (Sr., 3B, Stevenson Ranch, CA/West Ranch HS) hit into a fielder's choice. Brendan Natuzzi (Sr., 3B, Napa, CA/Justin-Siena HS) walked to load the bases. One out later, Kurata provided a two-run single to drive in Fischel and Paguio.

The Blues plated two unearned runs in the bottom of the eighth, but were unable to tie the score. Joey Faudskar (Jr., OF/P, Phoenix, AZ/Pinnacle HS) pitched the ninth inning for the Bearcats to earn his first save of the season. Faudskar allowed a one-out hit to Reisman, but forced Sox to fly out and ended the game by striking out Kevin Nakamura.

WU players with two hits were Kurata, Bailey, Scanlon, Pursell and Janitz. Bailey and Kurata each drove in two runs. Bailey and Pursell scored twice. Reisman of Whitman was 4 for 5.

Whitman's Starter Throws Seven Innings in Second Game

Eric Ma, who started the second game on the mound for the Blues, kept Willamette scoreless for seven innings. He allowed just four hits -- all singles -- and walked four batters. He recorded six strikeouts. A single by Scanlon in the fourth inning was the Bearcats' only hit until the top of the sixth.

Whitman surged into a 2-0 lead in the second stanza. With one out, Wishart singled and then went to second on a ground out. Anthony Nevoso drove in Wishart with a single near the right field line. Alex Behrman was hit by a pitch, before Williams hit an RBI single to left.

The Blues tacked on one run in both the fourth and fifth innings to increase their advantage to 4-0. Willamette earned two hits in the sixth inning on singles by Kurata and Scanlon. In the seventh, WU had runners at first and second with one out, but a double play ended the threat.

In the eighth, Nick Di Fiori (So., 1B/DH, Monrovia, CA/Bishop Amat HS) walked. One out later, he went to second on a wild pitch by reliever Milo Mincin. Bailey doubled to right to bring home Di Fiori. With two outs, Pursell sent a single into center field to drive Bailey across the plate and cut the margin to 4-2. Mincin faced just three batters in the ninth.

Scanlon was 2 of 4 for Willamette. Kurata, Bailey, Pursell and Janitz each added one hit. For Whitman, Wishart was 3 of 4 with a double. Sox and Johnson each contributed a single and a double. Williams and Nevoso also earned two hits.

Willamette relief pitcher Matt Pisacane (Fr., RHP, San Diego, CA/San Dieguito HS) tossed the final three innings for the Bearcats. He kept WU in the game, while striking out three batters and allowing three hits.

Connor Bailey (Sr., CF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS)

Big Moment of the Day for Willamette

Connor Bailey smacked a two-run homer to give the Bearcats
a 5-1 lead in the first game of the doubleheader. It was his sixth
homer this season and the 28th homer of his career. He moved
past Mitchell Rowan (2009-12) into third place on WU's all-time
list. He trails only Kyle Stalker (51 from 2006-09) and T.C. Lee
(34 from 2008-11).