Willamette Sweeps Pacific Lutheran, 5-1 and 5-4

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University pitcher and designated player Nikki Franchi (Jr., Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) recorded a win and a save, while going 5 for 6 at the plate, leading the Bearcats to a doubleheader sweep of Pacific Lutheran University, 5-1 and 5-4, Sunday, March 16 at the WU Softball Field. The pair of Northwest Conference wins improved the Bearcats to 8-2 overall, 6-2 in the NWC. Pacific Lutheran fell to 10-8 overall, 8-4 in the NWC.

In the opener, Franchi threw a complete-game five-hitter, with six strikeouts and two walks. PLU's only run during the game was unearned.

LaShawna Holcomb (Jr., CF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS) hit a two-run homer in the first inning of the second game, and Lizzy Whittemore (Fr., 3B, Yarmouth, ME/Albertson College) added a solo homer five innings later, to help Willamette finish the sweep. Franchi threw the final two innings of game to earn her second save of the season.

Willamette's lead-off batter, Liz Gilgan (Sr., SS, Sherwood, OR/Sherwood HS), scored the first run of the afternoon. She was hit by a pitch to start the bottom of the first inning, then stole second base. Marissa Richards (Jr., 1B, Newberg, OR/Newberg HS) moved Gilgan to third with a ground out. Franchi doubled to left field to bring Gilgan across the plate.

The Lutes tied the game in the top of the third inning. Caitlin Brown singled up the middle to open the stanza. She advance to second when Sheila Reiten hit a line drive to third base and reached first on a fielding error. Another error loaded the bases for PLU.

One out later, Rachel Wheeler-Hoyt drove in Brown with a single. WU escaped a big inning for PLU when left fielder Cirbi Anthony (Jr., Vale, OR/Vale HS) caught a fly ball by Lisa Gilbert and threw out Reiten at the plate for a double play.

WU regained the lead for good in the bottom of the third. Franchi doubled with one out and scored later in the inning on a two-out single up the middle by Katie Peterson (So., RF, Independence, OR/Central HS).

The Bearcats tacked on three more runs on three hits, a hit batsmen and a sacrifice fly. Gilgan began the inning with a single. She went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Richards and scored on a single by Franchi. Nicole Wallace (So., C, Roseville, CA/Roseville HS) drove in the next run with a sacrifice fly to center field. The third run scored when Holcomb dashed home while Peterson was caught in a run-down between first and second.

Franchi was 3 for 3 at the plate with two runs and two RBIs in the opener. Holcomb added a 2-for-3 performance with one run. Gilgan went 1 for 3 and scored twice. Reiten was the only player with more than one hit for the Lutes in the first game, as she went 2 for 4.

WU took a quick 3-0 lead in the first inning of Game #2. As in the first game, Gilgan was hit by a pitch as Willamette's lead-off batter. Richards sacrificed Gilgan to second and Franchi followed with an RBI single. Holcomb followed with her two-run homer to left field.

The Lutes chipped away at the lead by scoring an unearned run in the third stanza and another unearned tally in the fourth. In the third, Cathy Kirkevold walked, went to second on a wild pitch and moved to third on a ground out by Heather Walling. Kirkevold scored when Missy Waldron reached base on a throwing error by pitcher Debra Bohren (So., LHP, Tillamook, OR/Tillamook HS).

In the fourth, pinch-runner Shelby Johnston scored on a two-out single by Kirkevold. The Lutes left two runners on base when Walling grounded out to first base to end the inning.

PLU put together three hits in the top of the fifth, but was unable to score. With two outs, Brown singled up the middle and Wheeler-Hoyt singled to left field. Gilbert also singled to left, but Anthony easily threw out Brown, who attempted to score from second on the play.

Willamette added a run in the bottom of the fifth for a 4-2 advantage. Richards and Franchi hit back-to-back doubles to produce the run. The Bearcats tacked on another insurance run in the sixth inning, when Whittemore blasted her first home run as a college player. She sent the ball over the fence in left center.

Bohren, who threw the first three innings for Willamette, was relieved by Amy Valencia (Fr., RHP, Cheyenne, WY/Cheyenne East HS). Valencia tossed two innings, then Franchi went to the circle in the top of the sixth.

Franchi faced three batters and registered two strikeouts in the sixth. The Lutes put together a rally in the seventh inning, as PLU recorded three hits and cut the lead to one run.

Walling struck out to begin the inning, but Waldron hit an infield single and Reiten doubled to center. Brown added a bloop single that landed near the left field line and enabled Waldron to score.

Wheeler-Hoyt followed with a sacrifice fly to center field, driving in Reiten with PLU's fourth run of the game. Franchi struck out Gilbert to end the threat with Brown representing the tying run at first base.

Franchi improved to 4-2 with the win in the first game. On the day, she struck out 10 batters and allowed just two walks. Her 5-for-6 effort at the plate included three doubles.

Two Bearcats earned more than one hit in the second game. Franchi was 2 for 3 with a run and two RBIs. Whittemore also went 2 for 3. Brown was 2 for 4 for Pacific Lutheran.

Both teams recorded seven hits in the nightcap. WU outhit the Lutes, 15-12, during the doubleheader.

Willamette does not play again until Tuesday, March 25, when the Bearcats will open the Sun West Tournament with two games in Orange Country, Calif. The 'Cats will play a total of six games in three days during their California trip.

GAME #1 - BOX SCORE

Willamette University 5, Pacific Lutheran 1

GAME #2 - BOX SCORE

Willamette University 5, Pacific Lutheran 4

Nikki Franchi struck out 10 batters while earning a win and a save against the Lutes.

Nikki Franchi struck out 10 batters while earning a win and a save against the Lutes.