Stalker Blasts Two Homers to Set Season Record, but Lutes Sweep Bearcats, 8-5 and 12-6

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Kyle Stalker (Jr., 1B, Bellevue, WA/Sammamish HS) belted two homers in the first game to set a Willamette University record with 14 this season, and Max Stepan (Fr., C, Pueblo, CO/Pueblo County HS) smacked two homers in the second game, but it wasn't enough as Pacific Lutheran University swept a doubleheader from the Bearcats, 8-5 and 12-6, at John Lewis Field on Saturday, March 22. PLU improved to 11-8-2, 9-7 in the Northwest Conference, while Willamette dropped to 10-11, 6-6 in the NWC.

Stalker gave WU a 2-0 lead in his first at bat of the opening game when he sent the ball well over the right field fence to tie the school record of 13, set by Tony Barron in 1987. Stalker set the new record with a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning for the game's final run. He already held Willamette's career record, which he extended to 28 following his two homers on Saturday.

Stepan belted a two-run homer in the second inning of the second game. He added a solo homer in the sixth inning. Stepan has three home runs on the season.

Brandon Post of Pacific Lutheran hit a three-run homer in the third inning of the first game to give the Lutes a 3-2 lead. He sent the ball over the fence in right center.

The Lutes extended their lead to 5-2 in the fourth inning of the opener. Carl Benton hit an RBI double down the right field line and Brandon Sales pounded an RBI double to right center. Tyler Libadia drove in another run for the Lutes in the top of the fifth with a single to left field, and Sales drove in Benton with a sacrifice fly in the sixth.

Willamette cut the lead to 7-4 with a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth. Stalker singled and T.C. Lee (Fr., LF, Lafayette, CA/Acalanes HS) doubled to start the inning. With one out, Jack McGee (Jr., 3B/P, Hillsborough, CA/St. Ignatius HS) drove in Stalker with a grounder to second base. Stepan walked to put runners at the corners and David Tufo (Jr., 3B/2B, San Bruno, CA/Burlingame HS) followed with a pinch-hit single to center, allowing Lee to score.

Each team scored once in the final inning to complete the game. PLU finished with 13 hits, while Willamette achieved nine hits. Stalker was 3 for 4 with three runs and three RBIs for the Bearcats. Five players each registered two hits for PLU, including Post, who led the Lutes with three RBIs, and Benton, who was the only Lute to score twice.

Brett Brunner recorded the win for PLU. He threw five complete innings and recorded seven strikeouts, while allowing just one walk. He limited WU to four hits and two runs. He left the game with PLU leading 5-2. Starter Tye Sundlee (Sr., RHP, Yakima, WA/West Valley HS) took the loss for Willamette and fell to 1-4 on the season.

In the second game, Willamette committed five errors -- all in the first inning. The Lutes took advantage of the miscues, plus a walk and three hits, to build a 6-0 lead just one-half inning into the game. Five of the six runs were unearned.

Right fielder Josh Takayoshi walked for PLU to start the game. He moved to second on a ground out by Sales. Post followed with a single to right field that Michael Rierson (Fr., RF, Salem, OR/Sprague HS) charged in to catch, but the ball landed short. Rierson inadvertently kicked the ball a few yards toward center and Takayoshi scored. Later in the inning, two grounders were misplayed, preventing the Bearcats from turning a double play each time.

The fourth error occurred on another possible double play, when Doug Bloom (Fr., SS, Salem,OR/South Salem HS) was knocked down while trying to send a relay throw to Stalker at first base. Bloom had already tagged second for one out, but he collided with a runner sliding into the base and his throw went wide. Willamette argued that a double play should have been awarded because of the contact, but the officials ruled the play was legal.

WU's final error of the inning came on a throw from left field after Andrew Hernandez hit a single for the Lutes. The error allowed Davis to score, while Hernadez moved to second. The next batter was Takayoshi, who grounded out to end the inning.

Pacific Lutheran added two runs in the top of the second, before WU got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the inning with a pair of runs on Stepan's homer. The Lutes tacked on three runs in the top of the third to claim a commanding 11-2 lead.

Rierson hit his first collegiate homer for the Bearcats in the seventh inning. It was a two-run blast to right center.

Stepan was 3 for 3 during the game. He scored twice and drove in three runs. All of his hits went for extra bases, as he provided a double to go with his two homers.

Rierson finished 2 for 4 with two runs and two RBIs. Tufo was 1 for 3 with a double. James Perez (So., OF, Petaluma, CA/Petaluma HS) went 1 for 2 with an RBI single.

Kris Hansen was 2 for 3 with two runs and two RBIs for Pacific Lutheran. Post went 2 for 4 and scored three times. Aratani and Davis also earned two hits apiece.

Starter Trey Watt (2-1) recorded the win for PLU. He threw five innings and allowed three runs and six hits. WU starter Jarrid Summers (Jr., RHP, Boise, ID/Boise HS) fell to 2-2 with the loss.

The Bearcats return to the diamond on Saturday, March 29 with an NWC doubleheader at Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash. Willamette will play two more games against the Pirates on Sunday, March 30. Both doubleheaders are slated to begin at 12 p.m. (PDT).

GAME #1 - BOX SCORE

Pacific Lutheran University 8, Willamette University 5

GAME #2 - BOX SCORE

Pacific Lutheran University 12, Willamette University 6

Kyle Stalker set a new Bearcat record with his 14th homer of the season. He also holds the WU record with 28 career homers.

Kyle Stalker set a new Bearcat record with his 14th homer of the season. He also holds the WU record with 28 career homers.