The Bearcats got swept in last weekend’s home series against Whitworth University, dropping all three games to fall to 10-7 on the season and 7-5 in the Northwest Conference (NWC). The visiting Pirates improved their record to 10-9 overall and 7-2 in the NWC.
In the first game of the series, Whitworth found considerable success while batting from a disadvantage. Nine of the 12 runs and 12 of 18 total hits recorded by the visitors came when two outs had already been logged by Willamette’s defense. When batting with fewer than two outs, Whitworth only managed six hits on 21 attempts.
The Pirates started the scoring immediately in the first game, recording two runs in the first inning on three hits and two errors. Willamette initially had no answers, with first-year Ethan Fischel, senior Connor Bailey and junior Justin Scanlon all flying out to end the inning.
It took until the third inning for the Bearcats to find life. Fischel singled up the middle to get the home team on base. Both Bailey and Scanlon walked, loading the bases with only one out. Senior Cole Pursell forced Fischel across the plate with his walk, the third consecutive walk from the Whitworth pitcher. On the very next play, both Pursell and senior Tyler Janitz were caught on a double play, ending the inning prematurely for Willamette and stifling any gained momentum.
Whitworth’s lead increased to 9-1 over the next several innings, putting the game out of reach for the home team. Senior Kyle Paguio scored from second base on a single from Bailey in the seventh inning, and Pursell and Janitz added each added a run of their own in the eighth inning, but Willamette’s late surge proved too little too late, as the game ended with a score of 12-4.
The Pirates’ defense took the forefront once more in the second game of the series. Willamette, having recorded 11 hits in the first match, only managed to smack five in the second game. The Whitworth pitchers combined for seven strikeouts and three walks and Willamette was unable to log a single hit in the final two innings. The Bearcats’ inability to gain offensive momentum cost them the game, as the defense rose to the challenge after allowing 12 runs earlier the same day.
Senior Brandon Nelson led the defensive effort for the Bearcats with his decisive pitching, only allowing three runs and nine hits in seven innings. However, in tough situations, Whitworth was again able to find offensive answers. Two of the visitors’ three runs came with two outs already recorded by the home team.
The Pirates slowly pushed their lead to 3-0 through five innings before Willamette answered in the sixth. Scanlon was pushed to third base after his bunt by a single from Janitiz and from sophomore Sean Little. Paguio hit a sacrifice fly to bring Scanlon home for Willamette’s sole run. The contest ended 3-1 in favor of the visitors. Neither team was able to do anything offensively over the final three innings.
The final game of the series started off strong for the Bearcats. Paguio opened the first inning with a double, and a single from Bailey pushed him to third base. Next at bat, Scanlon singled to send Paguio home. One out later, Bailey stole third plate and Fischel’s single pushed him home. Scanlon scored on Little’s double, with Fischel reaching home right after him on a ground out. Little dashed to home plate while senior Sam Hudd was caught stealing, providing the final run of the inning and of the game for Willamette.
The Bearcats’ strong early momentum did not continue through the rest of the game. After the first inning, Willamette’s offense was once again stifled and the Pirates clawed their way back from the 5-0 deficit to an eventual 9-5 victory.
“Any team can have a tough weekend,” Willamette Head Coach Aaron Swick said in his interview with Robert McKinney. “The test of a good team is how they respond when it happens.”
Willamette’s next game comes against Whittier College this Thursday, March 21 at 3:00 p.m. (PST).