By Carrie Fox
The Whitworth University Pirates pulled out a 7-3 win over Willamette University in the first game of a Northwest Conference doubleheader this weekend.
The second game of the doubleheader was suspended due to darkness at the end of the ninth inning with the teams tied at 3-3. The game included solo home runs by seniors Jack Brett and Eric Del Prado. The Bearcats were rescheduled to finish the game at Roy Helser Field in McMinnville, Oregon on Sunday and complete the series once the suspended game had concluded.
Junior Matt Steindorf threw the first six innings of the opener, but gave up three runs on five hits in the top of the second. They were the only runs scored by either team in the first seven innings.
The Bearcats responded by scoring three runs in the bottom of the eighth. With one out, senior’s Cameron Igarashi and Perry Van Eckhardt walked. Junior Connor Bailey followed with an RBI double to right center, with Igarashi scoring and Van Eckhardt taking third base. Del Prado singled through the left side to allow Van Eckhardt to score, while Bailey went to third. Junior Brendan Natuzzi hit a sacrifice fly to right field that brought home Bailey, as the Bearcats reduced Whitworth’s lead to 6-3.
Bailey led the Bearcats by going two of four with a double. Van Eckhardt also pounded out a double for the Bearcats.
At the beginning of game two the Pirates held a 1-0 lead after scoring once in the top of the second. In the bottom of the second, Brett smacked a leadoff homer down the right field line to tie the game. Two innings later, Del Prado added a leadoff homer to right center, as the Bearcats took a 2-1 lead. Natuzzi batted next and reached first on an error. Brett doubled near the left field line to send Natuzzi to third. After Junior Tyler Janitz walked, senior Mason Fessler hit into a double-play. Natuzzi scored from third.
In the top of the ninth, Whitworth was able to pull the game back to a 3-3 tie.
Brett was two of four at the plate for Willamette. Natuzzi went two of five with a run and an RBI. Natuzzi’s single in the 10th inning bringing home a 4-3 win for the Bearcats.
Natuzzi hit a single up the middle with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning to drive home Van Eckhardt with the winning run, leading the Bearcats to defeat Whitworth University, 4-3, at Roy Helser Field on Sunday finishing up the game that had been suspended.
Van Eckhardt was the first batter for Willamette in the bottom of the 10th inning of the suspended game. He walked on a full-count pitch. Bailey flied out to center field for the first out. A couple pitches later, Van Eckhardt stole second base. Del Prado grounded out to second to advance Van Eckhardt to third and Natuzzi followed with the game-winning hit up the middle.
Natuzzi picked up the pitching win when the game resumed in the top of the 10th inning on Sunday. Natuzzi improved to 2-0 on the season. In his 1 2/3 innings against Whitworth on Saturday and Sunday he held the Pirates without a hit, while recording two strikeouts and allowing two walks. For the season, Natuzzi has thrown a total of 5 1/3 innings in three appearances with a 0.00 ERA and eight strikeouts.
It was the second time Natuzzi has earned the game-winning hit and the pitching victory in the same game this year. In a 7-6 win over Whittier College on Feb. 3, Natuzzi registered the winning RBI with a sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth inning. He pitched the final three innings to achieve the win.
Strong pitching from Whitworth kept the Bearcats from scoring for much of Sunday’s regularly scheduled game. By the time the Pirates pitcher left the game in the eighth inning, the Pirates held an 8-2 lead.
Whitworth plated one run in the second inning and two more in the third for a 3-0 advantage.
Senior Troy Conway hit a single for the Bearcats with one out in the bottom of the third. Igarashi singled to right center, pushing Conway to second. Conway went to third and Igarashi was thrown out at second when Van Eckhardt hit into a fielder’s choice. Conway scored on an error by the pitcher covering first as the Pirates attempted to complete a double play.
Bailey batted next for Willamette and momentarily appeared to tie the game with a two-run homer down the left field line. The umpires decided the ball left the stadium outside the foul pole. Bailey went on to walk, but Willamette trailed 3-1 at the end of the inning.
Whitworth gained control with five runs in the top of the sixth on three hits and four walks.
The Bearcats picked up one run in the seventh and two in the eighth. Natuzzi, Brett, Janitz and Conway all singled to create the run in the seventh. Bailey singled up the middle to start the eighth, and then Del Prado smacked a two-run homer to left to pull Willamette within 8-4.
Willamette out hit Whitworth 12-9, but weren’t able to walk away with the win.
Igarashi, Bailey, Natuzzi, Brett and Conway all contributed two hits apiece, and Del Prado’s homer provided two of Willamette’s three RBIs. Conway also registered an RBI for the Bearcats.
“Overall we did not perform to our capabilities over the weekend,” Del Prado said. “We were able to come away with one victory, which obviously helps a lot in conference play. We as a team know the things we need to improve on and we plan on improving every day at practice. When we start to perform to our capabilities we are extremely excited to see where we end up.”
“We didn’t get the results we wanted coming out of a big weekend but there were still a lot of positives. They were a tough team and we had a chance to win all three games. We’re a tough team and we’re going to bounce back and get ready for another weekend of NWC play,” Eckhardt said.
Willamette is scheduled to play three Northwest Conference games next weekend at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. The Bearcats and the Blues will play two games on Saturday, March 10, starting at 12 p.m., and will close out the series with one game on Sunday, March 11 at 12 p.m.