Willamette Defeats Chapman, 8-1, in Leadoff Classic Semifinals, but St. Thomas Shuts Out Bearcats in Championship Game, 4-0

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110 and
Ryan Borde, Assistant Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110, rborde@willamette.edu

(SOFTBALL) PANAMA CITY, FLA. -- Senior third baseman Molly Barnes (Salem, OR/Sprague HS) belted two home runs and went 3 for 4 at the plate, leading Willamette University to an 8-1 victory over Chapman University (Calif.) in the semifinals of the Gold Bracket at the NFCA Division III Leadoff Classic on Sunday, March 10. The Bearcats advanced into the Leadoff Classic championship game, where the University of St. Thomas (Minn.) shut out WU's high-scoring offense in a 4-0 win that gave the Tommies first place in the prestigious event. Willamette took second place with a 5-1 tournament record.

Liz Gilgan (Jr., SS, Sherwood, OR/Sherwood HS) went 2 for 4 and scored two runs against Chapman, while Nicole Wallace (Fr., 2B/C, Roseville, CA/Roseville HS) added two hits in three at bats. Wallace also scored twice and drove in two runs. Nikki Franchi (So., RHP, Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) was 2 for 4 with an RBI. The Bearcats achieved nine hits during the game and also took advantage of four Chapman errors.

Franchi also was the winning pitcher against Chapman, which was ranked No. 8 in the latest NFCA Division III Coaches Poll released on March 8. She threw all seven innings and limited the Panthers to one run on just five hits. She struck out eight batters and allowed five walks.

In the championship game, the Tommies’ Carrie Embree held Willamette to just two hits, both singles, as St. Thomas won the 24-team tournament. The Bearcats had pounded out 65 hits and scored 50 runs on their way to winning their first five games of the tournament.

LaShawna Holcomb (So., OF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS) and Marissa Richards (So., UTL, Newberg, OR/Newberg HS) both went 1 for 3 for WU at the plate. Leighann Auer took the loss, her first of the season, after giving up four runs, three of which were earned, and six hits in six innings of work. She struck out five and walked one, while dropping to 3-1 on the year.

Barnes was the leading hitter for Willamette during the Leadoff Classic, batting .500 (12 for 24), hitting three home runs, and driving in seven runs. Also for the Bearcats, Geneva Hale (Jr., 1B, Shoreline, WA/Shorecrest HS) hit .353 (6 for 17), blasted four home runs, and drove in 10 runs.

Other top hitters for WU during the tournament were Gilgan and Franchi, as both hit .476 (10 of 21). In addition, Wallace hit .456 (10 of 22), and Holcomb hit .333 (7 of 21). Both Franchi and Holcomb hit home runs for WU.

The Bearcats ended the weekend with a 7-4 overall record. While at the Leadoff Classic, WU beat four teams ranked in the Top 30 of the NFCA Division III Coaches Poll. The ‘Cats will return to action on Saturday, March 24, with a double-header at George Fox University in Newberg, Ore.

Gold Bracket Semifinal - Willamette 8, Chapman 1 - Box Score
Gold Bracket Final - St. Thomas 4, Willamette 0 - Box Score

Molly Barnes hit two home runs in Willamette's win over Chapman in the Leadoff Classic semifinals.

Molly Barnes hit two home runs in Willamette's win over Chapman in the Leadoff Classic semifinals.