By Jarin Kobashigawa
Over the weekend the Willamette Baseball team traveled to Grand Prairie, Texas. On Friday, at AirHogs Stadium, the Bearcats lost to both Texas Lutheran and LeTourneau by one run. Matt Steindorf, a junior from Granite Bay, California was the starting pitcher against Texas Lutheran and kept the game scoreless until a Texas Lutheran player smacked a homer in the bottom of the fourth. Later, at the top of the sixth, junior Brendan Natuzzi got hit by a pitch. Junior Cole Pursell followed with a ground-rule double.
Senior Eric del Prado pulled a double down the right field line to score Natuzzi and Pursell to take the lead 2-1. Senior Perry Van Eckhardt had a leadoff single in the top of the seventh. A sacrifice bunt by senior Mason Fessler moved Eckhardt to second base and a throwing error advanced him to third. A sacrifice fly by senior Troy Conway brought Eckhardt home. Texas Lutheran scored two runs to take the lead in bottom of the seventh. The Bearcats could not create anything offensively for the rest of the game.
Later that day, at 6 p.m. the Bearcats played the second game of the day against LeTourneau and lost 10-9. The Bearcats scored six runs in the first inning. Sophomore Joey Faudskar and Eckhardt both singled. Natuzzi loaded the bases for the Bearcats after being hit by a pitch. del Prado scored Faudskar on a sacrifice fly. A single by junior Connor Bailey brought Eckhardt home. Senior Jack Brett drove in Natuzzi on a grounder to second. A single up the middle by first year Kyle Underwood brought Bailey home. After junior Tyler Janitz singled, Conway smacked a two-run triple to right center. Following a walk by Underwood, first year Tyler Vandemark, who pinch-ran for Underwood, scored on a single by Conway. In the bottom of the eighth the Yellow Jackets scored eight runs on a couple of singles, doubles and lucky bounces. In the top of the ninth Bailey led off with an inside-the-park home run to bring the Bearcats within one run of the Yellow Jackets, but that was the last offensive move by the Bearcats.
On Saturday, the Bearcats got their first win in Texas, beating Hardin-Simmons University 14-3. No extra base hits occurred in this game but the Cowboys had five errors which allowed the Bearcats to score majority of their runs. Brandon Nelson, a junior from Murrieta, California started the game for Willamette and went six innings, allowing only two runs. Two runs were scored in both the first and second inning. Eckhardt’s and Natuzzi’s walks both led to runs.
In the second inning, Janitz bunted for a single. Underwood and senior Cameron Igarashi walked to load the bases. Janitz scored on a wild pitch, while Underwoood scored on a sacrifice fly by Eckhardt. Three runs were scored in the sixth on a two-run single by Eckhardt and an RBI single by Natuzzi. In the seventh inning, five runs were scored on three errors,and additionally two earned runs were scored on a single by Bailey to make the score 14-2. Junior Nathan Gilman came in to pitch in the seventh and eighth and struck out four batters. First year Liam Keefe closed the game and allowed no hits.
On Sunday, the Bearcats played their last game in Texas against the Hendrix Warriors and beat them 8-2. Willamette scored three runs in the first inning. Faudskar led off with a walk and then stole second with his blazing speed. Natuzzi walked and then Bailey drove Faudskar and Natuzzi home. Bailey later scored on a wild pitch. Ben Whitten, a sophomore from Danville, California was the starting pitcher and threw five innings allowing only two runs to score. In the second inning Underwood singled and scored after Conway’s triple into right center. Conway scored that same inning on Eckhardt’s single. In the bottom of the fifth, del Prado reached first base on a walk and later scored on a balk. In the seventh Janitz’s double scored Bailey, who got on from a walk. Brett’s fly out to the center fielder scored Janitz. First year Jason Snare entered the game after Whitten and registered three strikeouts and allowing no runs to score in a span of three innings. Harbour Harrison closed the game in the ninth and struck out a batter.
On Saturday, Feb. 17, the Bearcats will play their first Northwest Conference three-game series against Linfield University and is scheduled to start at 11:00 a.m.