Willamette Opens Season with 2-0 Win over Northwest Christian

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

(SOFTBALL) SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University starting pitcher Leighann Auer (Fr., RHP, Independence, OR/Central HS) and relievers Casey Jarzombek-Clark (So., RHP, Aloha, OR/Aloha HS) and Nikki Franchi (So., RHP, Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) combined on a four-hit shutout, leading the Bearcats to a 2-0 victory over Northwest Christian College on Friday, Feb. 23 at the WU Softball Field. Northwest Christian fell to 2-6 on the season. It was the season opener for the Bearcats.

Willamette scored one run in the third inning, then added an insurance run in the fifth. The first run was scored by Cirbi Anthony (So., LF, Vale, OR/Vale HS), who opened the third inning with a walk. She stolen second, reached third on a sacrifice bunt by Liz Gilgan (Jr., SS, Sherwood, OR/Sherwood HS) and scored two batters later when Marissa Richards (So., RF, Newberg, OR/Newberg HS) hit into a throwing error by NCC shortstop Lisa Martinez.

In the fifth inning, Gilgan reached first base on an error with one out. She advanced all the way to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Cari Schruth (Sr., C, Roseburg, OR/Roseburg HS), then scored on a single to left field by Caitlin Waugh (Fr., LF, Lodi, CA/Tokay HS).

The two runs were plenty for Willamette, as the trio of Bearcat pitchers kept NCC off the scoreboard. Auer, who threw the first three innings, got out of a jam in the first inning, when the Beacons earned two of their four hits.

Martinez started the first inning with a single, but was thrown out at second when Amy Croll bunted into a fielder’s choice. Croll moved to third on a double by Kasey Sconce. With one out, Heather Cordell sent a squeeze bunt into play, but Auer fielded the ball and threw it to Schruth, who tagged out Croll at the plate. Auer then forced Bethany McAlister to ground out to second base to end the inning.

NCC added a single in the second inning and another single in the sixth, but both runners were later thrown out at second. Brittany Robles was tagged out in the second inning while attempting to advance on a pitch in the dirt. Martinez reached base in the sixth on a well-placed bunt toward first, but was thrown out at second when Croll hit into a double play.

Willamette matched NCC with just four hits and one double, but also benefited from one walk and one hit batsman. The WU defense played exceptionally well -- especially for a season opener -- as the Bearcats did not commit an error.

Likewise, Willamette’s pitchers did not allow a walk and did not hit any NCC batters. Auer registered one strikeout in her three innings of work. Jarzombek-Clark did not allow a hit during two innings of relief and Franchi closed out the game by pitching the final two innings. Franchi gave up the bunt single to Martinez, but struck out four batters and did not allow another hit.

Martinez was the only player for either team with more than one hit, as she went 2 for 3. Willamette received one hit each from Waugh, Anthony, Katie Peterson (Fr., OF, Independence, OR/Central HS) and LaShawna Holcomb (So., CF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS). Peterson's hit was a double, which came after she entered the game in the sixth inning for Holcomb.

Willamette will play at home again on Saturday, Feb. 24, against Lewis & Clark College. The Northwest Conference doubleheader between the Bearcats and the Pioneers is slated to start at 12 p.m. (PST).

Gilgan scored WU's second run against NCC