George Fox Defeats Willamette, 5-4

Newburg - Baffled by Willamette University righthander Zach Vande Griend through the first seven innings, the George Fox University Bruins rallied for two runs in the 8th and three in the 9th to pull out a 5-4 victory over the visiting Bearcats for a Northwest Conference baseball series sweep Monday afternoon at Morse Field.

Vande Griend and George Fox righty Mike Beck hooked up in a tense pitching duel through the first seven frames, Vande Griend allowing only two hits to the Bruins, who entered the game with a league-leading .362 average, and Beck only three. The Bearcats managed a 2nd-inning run off Beck when Matt Drahn was hit by a pitch and John Cox drilled a two-out double to deep center to score Drahn.

The Bearcats knocked out Beck in the 8th on one-out singles by Colin Griffin and Andy Bartels. Reliever Thomas Chivers gave up a run-scoring double to Travis Shull, Ken Halpin hit a sacrifice fly, and Cox singled off the glove of first baseman Joshua Sargent for another run and a 4-0 Bearcat advantage. With Vande Griend mowing down the Bruin hitters, Willamette appeared primed to upset the pre-season conference favorites.

Stephen Donohue’s two-double to left after a walk to Derrick Jones got the Bruins on the board in the 8th, however, and a passed ball and a wild pitch allowed Donohue to score, cutting the Bearcats’ lead in half. Jones moved in from right field and held the Bearcats scoreless in the top of the 9th, setting the stage for a dramatic bottom-of-the-9th rally.

David Peterson got things started with a lead-off home run to center, making it 4-3. Joshua Sargent then doubled off the glove of backpedaling left fielder Dane Woldseth in deep left, knocking out Vande Griend in favor of Drew Herbert (1-1). Greg Dombek sent Sargent to third with a grounder to second for the first out, and Scott Hunter walked to put runners at the corners. Tye Tinner’s chopper over the mound for the second out scored Sargent with the tying run and sent Hunter to second.

On a 2-2 count, Jones sent a sharp grounder over the bag at third that appeared to have won the game but was ruled foul by the home plate umpire, bringing the Bruins howling out of the dugout. Back at the plate, however, Jones took a ball for a full count, then ripped a clean single into the left-field corner to drive home Hunter.

George Fox is now 11-2 on the season and 3-0 in the conference, while Willamette is 4-8 overall and 0-3 in the league.

The Bearcats host Bethany College of California in a non-conference game on Friday (Mar. 12) at 1:00 p.m. The Bruins visit Whitman College for a conference series next weekend.