Willamette Sweeps George Fox, 7-0 and 9-1

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

(SOFTBALL) SALEM, ORE. -- Liz Gilgan (Jr., SS, Sherwood, OR/Sherwood HS) hit a home run on the first pitch in the bottom of the first inning, and pitcher Nikki Franchi (So., RHP, Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) struck out 12 batters in the first six innings, to lead Willamette University to a 7-0 victory over George Fox University in the opening game of a Northwest Conference doubleheader on Sunday, March 25. Willamette defeated the Bruins 9-1 in the second game to complete the sweep.

The Bearcats, ranked #5 in NCAA Division III, improved to 9-4 on the season, including 3-3 in the NWC. WU's three conference losses were to Linfield College, ranked #4 in Division III. George Fox fell to 5-13 overall, 3-7 in the NWC.

Gilgan's leadoff heroics started a two-run first inning for the Bearcats. The second run was scored by LaShawna Holcomb (So., CF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS), who walked with two outs, stole second and scored on a double by Franchi.

Willamette scored its third run in the fourth inning. Franchi opened the stanza with another double, then stole third. She scored later in the inning, when Marissa Richards (So., UT, Newberg, OR/Newberg HS) reached on an error by shortstop Amber Philliber.

The Bearcats extended the lead to 7-0 with four runs in the sixth. As in the fourth inning, Franchi led off the inning with a hit, this time a single down the left field line. Pinch runner Samantha Mix (Fr., IF, Cupertino, CA/King's Academy) ran for Franchi and eventually scored on a single by Cirbi Anthony (So., LF, Vale, OR/Vale HS). Marianne Ward (Jr, 2B, Sierra Madre, CA/La Salle HS) and Nikki Wallace (Fr., C, roseville, CA/Roseville HS) also earned RBI singles during the inning, while Holcomb received an RBI when she was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

Casey Jarzombek-Clark (Jr., RHP, Aloha, OR/Aloha HS) replaced Franchi in the circle for the seventh inninng. She hit one batter and the Bruins benefited from a defensive error and a wild pitch, but Clark kept he shutout intact by striking out three batters during the inning.

Franchi improved to 4-2 with the win. Kayla Winkler of GFU fell to 3-6 with the loss. Franchi also was the game's leading offensive player, as she finished 3 for 4 with two doubles, a run scored an an RBI. The only other player with more than one hit was Nikki Morrison of George Fox, who went 2 for 2.

The Bearcats and the Bruins were tied 1-1 after an inning and a half in the second game, but Willamette pulled away with five runs in the second inning. Richards started the rally with a double down the right field line. Anthony was hit by a pitch, then both runners advanced a base on a wild pitch. Debra Bohren (Fr., RF, Tillamook, OR/Tillamook HS) hit into a fielder's choice, but the Bruins were unable to throw out Anthony at third, as Richards scored on the play.

Willamette recorded four hits during the inning, including a double by Molly Barnes (Sr., 3B, Salem, OR/Sprague HS) and RBI singles by Gilgan and Holcomb. The single by Holcomb completed the rally by driving in Barnes from second base.

Richards hit her second consecutive double to open the third inning. She scored when Anthony followed with a single to second base.

WU added two runs in the fourth inning. The first run was scored by Barnes, who walked, went to second on a single to center field by Holcomb and scored when the ball got past the center fielder. Holcomb went to third on the error, then scored on a ground out by Franchi.

Willamette pitcher Leighann Auer (Fr., RHP, Independence, OR/Independence HS) threw the first 4 1/3 innings and allowed just three hits and one run, while striking out three batters. She left the game after a low line drive grazed her pitching hand. The Bearcats recorded the first out of the fifth inning on the play, as Barnes retrieved the ball and threw it to Geneva Hale (Jr., 1B, Shoreline , WA/Shorecrest HS) at first base.

Jarzombek-Clark faced just two batters before the game ended on the run rule. Clark earned one strikeout to go with her three strikeouts in the opener.

Richards was WU's top batter in the second game, as she went 3 for 3 with two doubles and two runs. Barnes and Holcomb both went 2 for 2, while Gilgan was 2 for 3. The Bearcats produced 11 hits, giving them 20 for the doubleheader. Auer improvedto 4-1 with the pitching win.

For the Bruins, Kerstyn Tsuruda was 1 for 3 with a double. Haley Harnish-Stadden was 1 for 2 and scored GFU's only run of the game. Philliber also went 1 for 2. Starting pitcher Torey Weatherman fell to 1-4 with the loss.

Willamette's next action is set for Tuesday, March 27, when the Bearcats will play one game at Northwest Christian College in Eugene, Ore., at 12 p.m. (PDT). The Bearcats will return home to face Oregon Institute of Technology on Wednesday, March 28 at 1 p.m (PDT), before hosting Lewis & Clark Colelge on Thursday, March 29 at 2 p.m. (PDT).

Game #1 - Willamette University 7, George Fox University 0 - Box Score
Game #2 - Willamette University 9, George Fox University 1 - Box Score
(5 innings, Run Rule)