Franchi Strikes Out Nine to Start Willamette Sweep of Lewis & Clark, 6-0 and 5-3

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

(SOFTBALL) SALEM, ORE. -- Sophomore pitcher Nikki Franchi (RHP, Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) struck out nine batters and allowed just one hit in 6 1/3 innings as the starter, leading Willamette University to a 6-0 win in the first game of a Northwest Conference doubleheader against Lewis & Clark College on Thursday, March 29. In the second game, Willamette led 4-1 after four innings, but had to hold off the Pioneers for a 5-3 victory.

The Bearcats, ranked #6 in NCAA Division III, upped their overall record to 11-6, while improving to 5-3 in the NWC. Lewis & Clark dropped to 3-19 overall, 1-11 in the NWC. The doubleheader was rescheduled from its original date of Feb. 24, when the teams were unable to play due to the weather.

Molly Barnes (Sr., 3B, Salem, OR/Sprague HS) went 2 for 2 with a solo home run and two walks in the opener. Barnes' home run to start the bottom of the fourth inning, broke a 0-0 tie and began a three-run inning for the Bearcats. Willamette added three more runs in the sixth inning, with two of the runs scoring on a single down the right field line by Marissa Richards (So., UT, Newberg, OR/Newberg HS).

The only hit off Franchi was an infield single that she deflected toward shortstop Liz Gilgan (Jr., Sherwood, OR/Sherwood HS). Gilgan grabbed the ball and made a solid throw to first base, but Megan Aucutt of Lewis & Clark was called safe by the field umpire on a close play. Franchi also allowed three walks and hit one batter. She improved to 5-2 on the season. Franchi has recorded 59 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings pitched this season.

Barnes and Cirbi Anthony (So., LF, Vale, OR/Vale HS) of Willamette were the only players with more than one hit in the opener. Anthony was 2 for 3 with one run and one RBI. Franchi was 1 for 3 with a double.

Leighann Auer (Fr., RHP, Independence, OR/Central HS) started the second game for Willamette. She allowed one run in two innings, before giving way to Casey Jarzombek-Clark (Jr., RHP, Aloha, OR/Aloha HS) after walking the first batter in the third stanza.

Jarzombek-Clark struck out two batters over the next 2 1/3 innings, but allowed two runs in the fifth, as L&C pulled within 4-3. Annie Schlegel (Fr., RHP, Banks, OR/Banks HS) replaced Jarzombek-Clark with one out and runners and second and third in the fifth inning. She forced a line out to first base and a ground out to second to end the threat.

WU tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth. Geneva Hale (Jr., 1B, Shoreline, WA/Shorecrest HS) walked to open the stanza, then scored on a double by Schlegal. It was the second RBI hit by a WU pitcher during the game. Jarzombek-Clark drove in a run with a single in the the third inning.

Schlegel faced just three L&C batters in the sixth inning, then forced the first two Pioneers into outs at the start of the seventh inning. Elizabeth Murrieta doubled down the left field line to bring the tying run to the plate, but Charlotte Skeffington sent a grounder toward Hale, who fielded the ball and tossed it to second baseman Nicole Wallace (Fr., 2B/C, Roseville, CA/Roseville HS), covering at first for the final out.

Jarzombek-Clark received the win for Willamette. She is 2-1 on the season. Schlegel, who was making her debut appearance for the Bearcats, recorded her first save. Lewis & Clark pitchers Roxanne Rittmaster (0-6) and Janet Freerks (2-6) took the losses in the first game and the second game, respectively.

The top four batters in Willamette's lineup -- Gilgan, Richards, Barnes and LaShawna Holcomb (So., CF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS) -- each registered two hits in the nightcap, helping the 'Cats total 12 hits during the game. Gilgan was 2 for 3, while Richards, Barnes and Holcomb each went 2 for 4. Hale was 0 for 0, but walked twice and was hit by a pitch.

Murrieta and Skeffington each recorded two hits for the Pioneers. Murrieta was 2 for 3 with a run and an RBI. Skeffington was 2 for 4 and drove in one run.

Willamette will play its next games on Saturday, March 31 at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash. Game time for the first contest is slated for 2 p.m. (PDT). The Bearcats will remain in Tacoma for a doubleheader against Pacific Lutheran University on Sunday, April 1, starting at 12 p.m. (PDT).

Game #1 - Willamette University 6, Lewis & Clark College 0 - Box Score
Game #2 - Willamette University 5, Lewis & Clark College 3 - Box Score

Molly Barnes went 4 for 6 with a home run, a double, two runs and two RBIs in Willamette's doubleheader sweep of Lewis & Clark College.

Molly Barnes went 4 for 6 with a home run, a double, two runs and two RBIs in Willamette's doubleheader sweep of Lewis & Clark College.