Stalker Hits Two Homers, Drives in Five Runs, as Bearcats Open Season with 9-7 Win over Corban

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University sophomore first baseman Jeff Stalker (Bellevue, WA/Sammamish HS) hit two homers and drove in a total of five runs, leading the Bearcats to a 9-7 victory over cross-town rival Corban College, in the season opener for both teams, Saturday, Feb. 3 at John Lewis Field. Willamette scored two times in each of the first two innings and held a 9-1 lead entering the ninth stanza, but the Warriors tallied six runs in their final at bat to tighten the score. WU reliever Kelsey Nakata (So., RHP, Mililani, HI/Mililani HS) earned a save by facing three batters and forcing the final out of the game.

After Willamette built its early 4-0 lead, Stalker added three runs in the fourth inning with his first homer, a line drive shot over the right field fence that also scored Kelly Gilmore (Sr., RF, Keizer, Or/McNary HS) and David Tufo (So., 3B, San Bruno, CA/Burlingame HS). Matthew Rasmussen (Sr., SS, Sandy, UT/Bingham HS) grounded home pinch-runner Jordan Roberts (So., CF, Portland, OR/Grant HS) in the sixth inning as the lead reached 8-0.

Corban finally put a run on the scoreboard with one out in the seventh, as Matt Schmidt (Fr., RF, Corvallis, OR/Santiam Christian HS) singled through the right side, then scored on a double to right center by Jeremy Frantz (Sr., C, Medford, OR/South Medford HS). Schmidt advance to third when Darren Johnson (Jr., 3B/C, Vancouver, WA/Clark CC) flew out to right field, but was stranded two batters later, following a strikeout by James Kilcup (Jr., LF, Vancouver, WA/Vancouver Christian HS).

Stalker opened the bottom of the eighth inning by pounding out his second homer, which easily cleared the fence in right field to increase WU’s lead to 9-1. Corban reliever Brett Timmerman (Sr., LHP, Medford, OR/North Medford HS), who started the game at first base, retired the next three batters in his only inning of work.

Clint Moran (Jr., LHP, Mission Viejo, CA/Capistrano Valley HS), who entered the game for Willamette at the start of the seventh, began his third inning of work as the Warriors started their final at bat. Frantz opened the ninth by hitting the ball to third base, but reached first and second on an error by Tufo. Johnson drove in Frantz with a single. Timmerman also singled, then both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Kilcup hit a sacrifice fly for the first out, as Johnson scored from third to cut Willamette’s advantage to 9-3.

Nakata went to the mound for the Bearcats later in the inning with WU leading 9-5, the bases loaded and two outs. The first two batters faced by Nakata, Frantz and Johnson, each hit infield singles to third base, driving in two more runs. With the bases still loaded and Johnson representing the winning run at first base, Nakata ended the game by getting Timmerman to ground out to Ryan Peterson (Sr., 2B, Grangeville, ID/Grangeville HS) at second base.

Willamette’s early lead included a two-RBI single by Grant Yamaguchi (Sr., DH/INF, Aiea, HI/Mid Pacific Institute) in the first inning, as Sean Anderson (Jr., CF, Klamath Falls, OR/Klamath Union HS) and Tufo scored. In the second, Stalker produced an RBI single with two outs. Anderson followed with another single to bring home Tufo for a 4-0 lead.

Stalker went 3 for 5 overall and was the only player from either team with more than two hits. Anderson went 2 for 4 and Tufo added two hits in five at bats. Ellis Webster (So., 2B, Carlsbad, CA/San Dieguito HS), who started at second base for Willamette and scored on Stalker’s single in the second inning, added a 2-for-3 performance with two RBIs.

For Corban, Johnson and Timmerman each went 2 for 4, while Frantz was 2 for 5. Johnson and Frantz also registered two RBIs apiece.

Both teams substituted freely on offense, defense and on the mound. Willamette used 21 players during the game, including six pitchers. Corban played 22 players, with four seeing action on the mound.

Willamette’s pre-determined pitching rotation, allowed starter Tye Sundlee (Jr., RHP, Yakima, WA/West Valley HS) to record the win. He pitched three scoreless innings, allowed just two hits -- both singles -- and registered one strikeout. Scott Fitchett (Sr., RHP, Sandpoint, ID/Sandpoint HS), the starter for the Warriors, took the loss after giving up four runs and eight hits in three innings. Fitchett walked one batter and struck out three.

The Bearcats accumulated 14 hits in 38 at bats, while Corban earned 12 hits in 37 at bats. Willamette had three extra base hits on Stalkers’ two homers and Anderson’s double. The Warriors’ only extra-base hit was the double by Frantz.

Willamette is set to return to action on Saturday, Feb. 10, with two games against Lewis & Clark College at Tigard High School in Tigard, Ore. The double-header is slated to begin at 11 a.m. (PST).