Hale Sets Willamette Home Run Record, as Bearcats Defeat George Fox, 7-5

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

NEWBERG, ORE. -- Willamette University junior first baseman Geneva Hale picked a great time to hit a home run. With Willamette trailing George Fox University by one run in the top of the seventh inning, Hale blasted a three-run shot to right center, giving the Bearcats the lead, on their way to a 7-5 victory on Thursday, April 19.

The powerful hit by Hale allowed her to break the Willamette single season home run record with her seventh homer of the year. She surpassed the previous record of six, which she set last year, equaled herself with two homers against Pacific Lutheran University on April 1 and had tied by teammate Molly Barnes (Sr., 3B, Salem, OR/Sprague HS) against GFU on Tuesday (April 17).

The home run by Hale provided the key play in a game that began on Tuesday, April 17 as the second half of a Northwest Conference doubleheader, but was suspended due to rain with Willamette leading 4-3 in the bottom of the second inning. George Fox won the first game on April 17 by a 7-4 final score. With the win in the second game, Willamette improved to 17-12 overall, 11-9 in the NWC. The Bruins fell to 6-26, 4-20 in the NWC.

When the game began on Tuesday, Willamette took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Liz Gilgan (Jr., SS, Sherwood, OR/Sherwood HS) led off the inning with a single, stole second, went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Nicole Wallace (Fr., 2B/C, Roseville, CA/Roseville HS) and scored on a sacrifice fly by Barnes. George Fox took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the inning, as Jessica Cardwell and Kerstyn Tsuruda provided RBI singles and Haley Harnish-Stadden hit a sacrifice fly.

The Bearcats moved back in front, with three runs in the top of the second. Nikki Franchi (So., RHP, Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) and Debra Bohren (Fr., RF, Tillamook, OR/Tillamook HS) both walked during the inning. Franchi scored on a one-out double by pinch-hitter Caitlin Waugh (Fr., OF, Lodi, CA/Tokay HS). Bohren and Waugh reached home plate later in the inning on a two-out single by Gilgan.

GFU's Katie Yoder walked and moved to second on a wild pitch to start the bottom of the second inning prior to Tuesday's rain delay. When play resumed, Yoder went to third on a ground out by Kayla Winkler and crossed the plate on a ground out by Nikki Morrison. Winkler's run tied the score, 4-4.

The Bruins took a 5-4 lead when first baseman Ashley Olson started the GFU half of the fifth inning with a homer to left field. It was her second home run of the season, as she hit one in each game of the delayed doubleheader against the Bearcats.

Neither team scored in the sixth inning, but Gilgan began the seventh inning by hitting a bunt single to third base for Willamette. Wallace moved Gilgan to second with a sacrifice bunt to the pitcher. Barnes walked to put the winning run on base, then Gilgan and Barnes each moved closer to home with a double steal. Hale's home run immediately followed to give Willamette the lead.

When the teams returned to action on Thursday, Leighann Auer (Fr., RHP, Independence, OR/Central HS) went into the circle for Willamette. She threw the remainder of the game and allowed one run and five hits in six innings. She recorded four strikeouts and allowed four walks. Two of the walks started the bottom of the seventh inning, before Auer got Harnish-Stadden to fly out, caused Lee to strike out and forced Amber Philliber to ground out to end the game.

Auer, who suffered the loss in Tuesday's first game, earned the win in the suspended game to up her record to 5-5. Winkler, who allowed seven hits and six walks, while throwing all seven innings of the suspended game, fell to 4-15 for GFU.

Gilgan led the Bearcats on offense with a 3-for-4 effort at the plate. She also scored two runs and had two RBIs. Hale, Bohren, Waugh and LaShawna Holcomb (So., CF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS) recorded one-hit apiece. For GFU, Tsuruda was 2 for 2 with an RBI, while Morrison and Olson each went 2 for 3 with a run scored and one RBI.

Willamette will play a four-game NWC series against conference leader Whitworth College in Spokane, Wash., this weekend. The Bearcats and the Pirates will open the series with a doubleheader on Saturday, April 21 and will conclude it with another doubleheader on Sunday, April 22. The action is scheduled to get underway at 12 p.m. (PDT) each day.

Willamette University 7, George Fox University 5 - Box Score
(Continuation of game suspended by rain on Tuesday, April 17)

Geneva Hale hit a three-run homer in the top of the seventh inning.