PARKLAND, Wash. – Willamette rallied from an 8-1 deficit to defeat Whitworth 9-8 in the nightcap of a Northwest Conference baseball doubleheader on Saturday, sweeping the Pirates in a pair of games played at the Pacific Lutheran baseball field. The Bearcats won the opener 7-1.
Whitworth has now dropped four straight conference contests to open the 2017 league schedule. The Pirates are 6-5 overall and 0-4 in the NWC. Willamette improved to 10-5, 6-2 and the Bearcats currently hold sole possession of first place in the conference standings.
Whitworth is "hosting" the weekend series at PLU because there is still too much snow on Merkel Field in Spokane. The teams will conclude the set with a single game on Sunday at noon.
Game 1 – Willamette 7, Whitworth 1
All of the scoring came in the first three innings as the Bearcats drove Whitworth starting pitcher Hugh Smith from the game before the third frame was completed.
Mason Fessler got Willamette on the board in the top of the first with a sacrifice fly. Then his two-run single highlighted a four-run second inning rally for Willamette. Kyle Paguio added a two-run single off of reliever Brady Simmelink in the top of the third, though one of those two runs was charged to Smith.
Daniel Casanova singled in Whitworth's only run of the game in the bottom of the second, briefly pulling the Pirates to within 5-1.
Smith dropped to 1-2 this season after allowing six runs on seven hits in 2.2 innings of work. Simmelink pitched well in relief, allowing only one run on four hits in 5.1 innings. Matthew Pulliam pitched the ninth.
Matt Steindorf improved to 5-0 this season after allowing only one run on four hits in eight innings. He struck out six Pirates and walked two.
Game 2 – Willamette 9, Whitworth 8
The Pirates appeared headed to their first conference win of the season after taking an 8-1 lead through two innings. But the Bearcats rallied with eight runs over the final two frames to overtake Whitworth.
The Bucs scored five runs in the first, getting RBI doubles from Jordan McGowan, Spencer Locati (two RBIs) and Ryan Bird. Then Whitworth scored three more times in the top of the second before an out was recorded, chasing Willamette starting pitcher Benjamin Whitten. Two errors allowed the first two runs to score and Matthew Nelson drove in the third with a sacrifice fly.
Ryan Kingma sailed through the first seven innings pitched for the Pirates, allowing only a sacrifice fly in Willamette's second inning. But the Bearcats rallied for six runs in the eighth inning to kick start the comeback. Four came off of Kingma before an out was recorded. Eric Del Prado had a two-run single and Joseph Faudskar added a two-run triple later in the rally off of Taylor Hillmick.
Willamette scored the tying and go-ahead runs in the ninth without even getting a hit. Two walks to start the inning were followed by a throwing error at third base on a sacrifice bunt, allowing the tying run to score from second base. Del Prado then drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly.
Whitworth went down without a runner reaching base in the bottom of the ninth.
Joel Condreay and Bird had two hits each for the Pirates, who only had seven hits in the game.
Kelly Fitzpatrick fell to 0-2 this season after giving up the two runs in the ninth inning.
Jett Gallagher threw the final 1.1 innings for Willamette without allowing a hit and picked up his first pitching victory of the season.