Bearcats Open Season with Wins over Oregon Tech and Concordia

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

PORTLAND, ORE. -- Nikki Franchi (Jr., RHP, Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) struck out 12 batters to record a win against Oregon Institute of Technology and recorded the save in a victory over Concordia University (Ore.), leading Willamette University to a 2-0 record on Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Northwest Cup, hosted by Concordia. WU defeated Oregon Tech, 7-1, then downed Concordia, 8-4.

Willamette was playing its first games of the season. Oregon Tech fell to 0-3, while Concordia dropped to 2-1.

In the first game, Marissa Richards (Jr., 1B, Newberg, OR/Newberg HS) led the Bearcats' offensive efforts with two home runs. She was 2 for 2 at the plate, walked once and earned three RBIs during the game.

Willamette took a 1-0 lead over OIT in the top of the second inning. Kelsey Schafer (Fr., 3B, Long Beach, CA/Wilson HS) singled with one out. She stole second base, then scored with two outs, when Crystal Kummerfeldt (Fr., 2B, Snohomish, WA/Jackson HS) reached first on a throwing error by shortstop Jenny Austin.

The Bearcats added one run in the third inning, as Liz Gilgan (Sr., SS, Sherwood, OR/Sherwood HS) hit a leadoff bunt single, went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Richards and scored on a single to second base by Franchi. Oregon Tech registered its first run in the fourth inning on a solo home run to left field by Jenni Bittle.

Gilgan provided another leadoff single in the fifth inning, this time to right center. The ball was misplayed, allowing Gilgan to advance to second. A throwing error also was recorded on the play, as Gilgan reached third base. Richards followed with a two-run homer to left field, giving WU a 4-1 advantage.

Richards tacked on a solo homer to start the top of the seventh inning. Franchi followed with a triple and scored when LaShawna Holcomb (So., CF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS) registered WU's third consecutive extra-base hit with a double to left center. HOlcomb later scored ona single by Schafer.

While the Bearcats were gradually pulling way from the Lady Owls, Franchi continued to limit OIT's offense. She held OIT to just five hits -- Bittle's homer and four singles. In addition to accumulating a dozen strikeouts, she also went all seven innings without issuing a walk. On offense, Franchi was 3 for 4 with a run and an RBI.

Keri Gesner suffered the loss for Oregon Tech and fell to 0-2 on the season. She allowed 12 hits and struck out four batters.

Against Concordia, the Bearcats broke open a scoreless game by plating five runs in the top of the fourth inning. Gilgan drove in two runs with a double and Franchi brought home the remaining two runs with a single to left field.

Debra Bohren (So., LHP, Tillamook, OR/Tillamook HS) was the starting pitcher for Willamette. She limited the Cavaliers to three hits and one run during the first four innings. Concordia's run was scored by Tina Garcia in the bottom of the fourth, when she doubled and reached home on a single by Samantha Daline.

Bohren continued to pitch at the start of the fifth stanza, but walked the first batter, then threw a wild pitch. She was relieved by Amy Valencia (Fr., RHP, Cheyenne, WY/Cheyenne East HS), who completed a walk to Danielle Pulfrey and also walked Kari Mabe. Nicole Illias drove in two runs with a double, before Franchi entered the game with WU leading 5-3 and runners at second and third.

Franchi struck out Shalina Morris for the first out of the inning. Garcia batted next and hit a sacrifice fly to center field to pull CU within 5-4. Franchi ended the inning by striking out Casey Middagh.

In the sixth inning, WU gave Franchi three insurance runs. Bohren, who moved to right field after leaving the mound, opened the inning by striking out, but reached first base on a passed ball. She stole second and went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Lizzy Whittemore (Fr., 3B, Yarmouth, ME/Albertson College). Richards followed with an RBI single and Holcomb completed the rally with a two-run homer.

Franchi walked two batters in the bottom of the sixth, but kept the Cavaliers off the scoreboard by allowing no hits. In the seventh inning, she faced just four batters before ending the game. In addition to recording the save, she struck out four batters and gave up one hit in three innings. During WU's two games, she piled up 16 strikeouts in 10 innings pitched.

Bohren recorded the pitching victory to start the season 1-0. Janelle Cristifaro, who threw 3 1/3 innings to start the game for Concordia, fell to 0-1 with the loss.

On offense, Gilgan and Franchi each provided the 'Cats with a pair of hits. Gilgan was 2 for 3 with a run and two RBIs. Franchi went 2 fo 4 with two RBIs. Bohren tallied two runs and was the only player for either team to score more than once.

Garcia produced two hits in two at bats for Concordia. She walked once, scored once and contributed one RBI. Daline was 2 for 3 at the plate and also drove in one run.

Willamette plays again on Saturday, March 1, when the Bearcats will travel to Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., for a Northwest Conference doubleheader. First pitch in the opening game is set for 12 p.m. (PST). Willamette and Pacific are scheduled to play a second doubleheader on Sunday, March 2, starting at 12 p.m. (PST).

BOX SCORE

Northwest Cup - Willamette University 7, Oregon Institute of Technology 1

BOX SCORE

Northwest Cup - Willamette University 8, Concordia University (Ore.) 4

Nikki Franchi threw a complete game five-hitter and struck out 12 batters against Oregon Tech.

Nikki Franchi threw a complete game five-hitter and struck out 12 batters against Oregon Tech.