Bearcats Power By Wheaton in Leadoff Classic Quarterfinals, 13-7

By Ryan Borde, Assistant Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110,

(SOFTBALL) PANAMA CITY, FLA. -- Geneva Hale (Jr., 1B, Shoreline, WA/Shorecrest HS) hit two home runs, and the Willamette University softball team pounded out 18 hits, as the Bearcats advanced to the semifinals of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Leadoff Classic after defeating Wheaton College (Mass.), 13-7, on Saturday, March 10. Willamette upped its record to 6-3 overall, including 4-0 at the Leadoff Classic.

The Bearcats will take on Chapman University (Calif.) in the semifinals on Sunday, March 11 at 10:30 a.m. (EDT). The winner will advance into the Gold Bracket championship game at 12:30 p.m. (EDT), against the winner of the other semifinal game between Louisiana College and the University of St. Thomas (Minn.). Losers in the semifinal games will play for third place, also at 12:30 p.m. (EDT). The winner of the Gold Bracket, which features the event's top eight teams from pool play, will be the Leadoff Classic champion.

Six Bearcats produced multi-hit games, and three WU players homered, highlighted by Hale’s grand slam in the first inning, and her two-run home run in the fifth. Hale finished the game 2 for 2 with six RBIs. She now has hit a home run in three straight games for the Bearcats.

Molly Barnes (Sr., 3B, Salem, OR/Sprague HS) and LaShawna Holcomb (So., CF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS) also hit home runs for Willamette, with Barnes knocking a two-run shot in the fourth inning, and Holcomb blasting a solo home run in the third. Barnes ended the game 4 for 5, with four runs scored, and three RBI, while Holcomb was 3 for 4, with three runs scored, and one RBI coming via her home run.

Also for Willamette offensively, Nikki Franchi (So., RHP/DP, Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) went 3 for 5, while both Liz Gilgan (Jr., SS, Sherwood, OR/Sherwood HS) and Marissa Richards (So., UTL, Newberg, OR/Newberg HS) went 2 for 4. Franchi scored two runs and drove a run in, Gilgan scored two runs, and Richards had one RBI.

Leighann Auer (Fr., RHP, Independence, OR/Central HS) picked up the win on the mound for WU, giving up five hits, walking four, and allowing six runs, four of which were earned. Auer, who struck out five Wheaton batters, improved to 3-0 on the year. Casey Jarzombek-Clark (Jr., RHP, Aloha, OR/Aloha HS) threw two-thirds of an inning and Franchi earned a save by pitching the final 2 1/3 innings.

Willamette never trailed after scoring four runs in the top of the first inning on Hale’s grand slam. Wheaton put up two runs in the bottom of the first, but the 'Cats scored once in the third inning and two more times in the fourth for a 7-2 lead.

Even so, the Lyons eventually pulled within two runs, 9-7, after recording four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Bearcats solidified the win, though, by adding two runs in each of the last two innings, while allowing Wheaton just six batters over the same period.

Willamette went 3-0 during pool play of the 24-team Leadoff Classic, and as a result advanced to the Gold Bracket. The Bearcats earned the No. 2 seed in the eight-team bracket, which was determined by run differential. Willamette outscored its three opponents in pool play by a combined 20 runs. Louisiana College, which outscored its three opponents by a combined 26 runs, is seeded first.


Geneva Hale hit two homers, including a grand slam, in Willamette's 13-7 win over Wheaton.

Geneva Hale hit two homers, including a grand slam, in Willamette's 13-7 win over Wheaton.