Willamette Splits Softball Doubleheader with Defending NWC Champion Linfield

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

(SOFTBALL) McMINNVILLE, ORE. -- Willamette University scored two runs in the first inning and starting pitcher Leighann Auer (Fr., RHP, Independence, OR/Central HS) threw five strong innings, sending the Bearcats to a 4-1 victory over defending Northwest Conference champion Linfield College in the second game of a doubleheader on Sunday, March 4. Linfield won the first game of the doubleheader, 6-3.

Auer allowed no runs and just three hits during her five innings of work. She did not record a strikeout, but completed her appearance without allowing a walk. Reliever Casey Jarzombek-Clark (Jr., RHP, Aloha, OR/Aloha HS) threw the final two innings for the Bearcats, who improved to 2-3 overall, 1-3 in the NWC. Linfield ended the day with a 3-1 overall record, with all four games in the NWC.

In Willamette’s victory on Sunday, Molly Barnes (Sr., 3B, Salem, OR/Sprague HS) went 3 for 3 with two doubles, including an RBI double in the fifth inning. Nikki Franchi (So., DP/RHP, Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) drove in the game’s first two runs in the opening stanza. First baseman Geneva Hale (Jr., Shoreline, WA/Shorecrest HS) tripled and later scored the Bearcats’ final run on a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning.

WU’s successful first inning began with an out, but Nicole Wallace (Fr., 2B, Roseville, CA/Roseville HS) followed with a walk. Barnes singled to center field. Wallace was thrown out at third when LaShawna Holcomb (So., CF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS) hit into a fielder’s choice. Franchi doubled to drive in Barnes and Holcomb for an early Willamette lead.

The Bearcats added one run in the fifth inning and one more in the sixth inning. In the fifth, Liz Gilgan (Jr., SS, Sherwood, OR/Sherwood HS) hit a lead-off single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Wallace and scored on Barnes’ double to center field. In the sixth, Hale’s lead-off double was followed one out later by a sacrifice fly from Marianne Ward (Jr., 2B, Sierra Madre, CA/La Salle HS).

Linfield tallied its only run of the second game in the seventh inning. Erica Hancock singled to open the stanza, then went to third on a double by Jena Loop. After Lisa Smith walked to load the bases, pinch-hitter Candice Fujino hit a single to center field, allowing Hancock to score.

The Wildcats broke a 2-2 tie in the first game by scoring four runs in the fourth inning. Jenny Marshall and Amanda Attleberger each recorded an RBI single during the inning. Attleberger went 2 for 3 during the game and was 4 for 5 during the doubleheader.

In the opener, neither team scored during the first inning, but Willamette scored twice in the top of the second stanza. Holcomb started the inning with a double to left center and eventually scored when Caitlin Waugh (Fr., LF, Lodi, CA/Tokay HS) hit into a bases-loaded error by Linfield third baseman Cori Simmons. Later in the inning, Gilgan hit a two-out infield single to bring home Franchi from third base.

Linfield equalized in the bottom of the second inning. Loop opened the stanza with a double to center field. A ground out by Smith and a single by Michelle Silbernagel moved Loop to third base. With runners at the corners, Linfield decided to run a double steal. Willamette eventually made a play on Silbernagel at second base. As soon as the ball was thrown toward second, Loop stole home. Rochelle Friend followed with a single to score Silbernagel with the tying run.

The Wildcats limited the Bearcats to just four hits during the first game. Hale recorded two of Willamette’s hits,
including a double. Linfield finished the game with 11 hits.

Willamette will return to action on Friday, March 9 at the NFCA Division III Leadoff Classic in Panama City, Fla.
During pool play, the Bearcats will take on William Paterson University (N.J.) at 2 p.m. (EST) on Friday, before facing the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire at 5 p.m. (EST) on Friday and Central College (Iowa) at 12:30 p.m. (EST) on Saturday, March 10. The tournament will move into bracket play Saturday afternoon and will conclude on Sunday, March 11.

Game #1 - Box Score; Game #2 - Box Score