Ninth Inning Blast By Johnson Propels Bearcats to 8-7 Win over Pacific: Willamette Stays Atop NWC

FOREST GROVE: Matt Johnson's tied the game with a ninth inning home run before Adam Holden and Colin Young won it with RBI hits in the 10th as the Willamette University baseball team rallied to beat the Boxers, 8-7, in the deciding game of a three-game Northwest Conference series.

The win keeps the Bearcats (13-6, 8-4 NWC) in first place in the NWC with a half game lead over George Fox. Those two teams tangle next weekend at Spec Keene Stadium with a double-header scheduled for Saturday.

Pacific (9-9, 6-5 NWC) held a 6-4 lead going into the top of the ninth when Johnson hit a two-run homer to straightaway center field to tie the game.

After reliever Nic Nottingham held Pacific scoreless in the ninth, the Bearcats used a RBI single by Adam Holden and a RBI double by Colin Young to secure the win.

Willamette reliever Matt Bicocca appeared to be in trouble in the bottom of the 10th, giving up a single to Cedric Steinhouser, a double to Scott Yasumoto and a walk to load the bases. Bicocca ended it though by coaxing the next three batters into fly outs, including a sacrifice fly by Ryan Raagas that cut the lead to one.

The Bearcats manufactured a 2-0 lead in the top of third. Anderson singled and moved to second on a ground out, then scored on Matt Johnson's RBI single to center. Steve Johnson singled home the second Bearcat run, but that lead was short-lived.

Starter Drew Herbert hit Frankie Guros and Raagas, and walked Nick Williams to set the table for Matt McCord who hit his second grand slam of the season. Another hit batter and three more walks added one more to a 5-2 Pacific lead.

Willamette scored single runs in the sixth and seventh to cut the edge to 5-4. Anderson doubled home Lee Eklund in the sixth. In the seventh, Steve Johnson singled with two outs and scored on Grant Yamaguchi's double.

But Robert Lloyd added to the Boxers' cushion with a solo home run to left center field in the seventh. That set the stage for Johnson's first home run of the season. Kyle Stalker walked to lead off the ninth, and then Young ran for him. Johnson homered to tie the game and end Azril's day.

In the tenth, Ellis Webster singled, and then moved to second on Eklund's sacrifice bunt. Holden's single to left gave the Bearcats the lead and Young gave the Bearcats an insurance run with his double to center.

McCord led Pacific offensively, going 2 for 4 with the grand slam. Matt Johnson and Steve Johnson each went 2 for 4 to pace Willamette, while Adam Holden went 2 for 5.

Nottingham (2-1) earned the win in four innings of relief, allowing one run on one hit and one walk while striking out three. Bicocca earned his fifth save of the season.

Andrew Rau took the loss for Pacific (0-1), allowing two runs on three hits in 1.1 innings. Pacific starter Adam Azril went 8.1 innings, allowing six runs on eight hits and six walks, striking out 10.

Willamette plays defending NWC co-champion George Fox in a three-game series beginning on Saturday.