Bearcats Defeat Linfield, 6-5, in First Game of Doubleheader

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University, ranked #24 in NCAA Division III, broke a 5-5 tie on an RBI single by LaShawna Holcomb (Jr., CF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS) with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, as the Bearcats defeated #3-ranked Linfield College, 6-5, in the first game of a doubleheader on Sunday, April 27. The Wildcats won the second game, 7-1, to gain a split at the WU Softball Field.

Linfield, the defending national champion, ended the day at 35-3 on the season, 24-2 in the Northwest Conference. Willamette concluded the doubleheader at 24-10 overall, including 18-8 in the NWC.

Neither team scored in the opener until the bottom of the fourth inning, when Willamette exploded for four runs. Junior pitcher Nikki Franchi (RHP, Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) opened the inning with a solo homer to center field. She extended her own Willamette season record to 10 homers.

Holcomb followed Franchi and reached base on a single to left field. Katie Peterson (So., RF, Independence, OR/Central HS) went to first on catcher's interference and Nicole Wallace (So., 2B/C, Roseville, CA/Roseville HS) was hit by a pitch to load the bases. After Linfield pitcher Brittany Miller recorded a strikeout, Willamette's Debra Bohren (So., RF/LHP, Tillamook, OR/Tillamook HS) pinch hit and drove in two runs with a double.

Wallace scored the final run of the inning. She was on third base after Bohren's double and reached the plate on a line-drive sacrifice fly by Cirbi Anthony (Jr., LF, Vale, OR/Vale HS).

Linfield cut WU's lead in half with two runs in the fifth inning. Rochelle Friend doubled and later scored on an error. Jenny Marshall drove in the other run with a single to left field.

The Bearcats added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Wallace led off the inning with a home run to the left field power alley. It was the fifth homer of the year for Wallace and the 45th homer for the Bearcats this spring.

Linfield used three hits, plus an error with two outs, to tie the game in the top of the seventh. Marshall singled to begin the rally. After a strikeout, Amanda Attleberger and Erica Hancock also singled to load the bases. Alex Hartmann drove in one run with a ground out to first base.

Emily Keagbine batted next and hit the ball toward third. Lizzy Whittemore (Fr., 3B, Yarmouth, ME/Albertson College) made a solid grab on the play, but threw wide, forcing first baseman Marissa Richards (Jr., 1B, Newberg, OR/Newberg HS) to lose contact with the bag.

Pinch-runner Natalie Taylor and Hancock scored on the error to tie the game, 5-5. Franchi ended the threat by getting Friend to hit into a ground out.

Liz Gilgan (Sr., SS, Sherwood, OR/Sherwood HS) opened WU's half of the seventh inning with a single toward first base. Richards advanced Gilgan to second with a sacrifice bunt and Franchi was intentionally walked. Holcomb faced a 1-2 count when she singled through the left side of the infield to score Gilgan with the winning run.

Holcomb was 2 for 4 during the game with a run and an RBI. Wallace was 1 for 2 and scored twice. WU's seven hits were by six different players and five different players scored.

Linfield earned 11 hits in the opener. Marshall was 3 for 4 with a run and an RBI. Attleberger and Hancock each went 2 for 4. The Wildcats also benefited from five Willamette errors. Linfield made two errors.

The Willamette defense turned an unusual double play in the third inning. With one out and Marshall at first base, Meredith Burnett hit a low blooper into left field. Gilgan backed up from shortstop to make the catch, but the ball went off her glove and was caught by Anthony charging in from left field. Anthony threw wide of first base trying to double off Marshall. Richards picked up the loose ball and threw out Marshall as she slid into second.

In the nightcap, Linfield struck for a run in the first inning and one in the third inning for a 2-0 lead. Willamette pulled within 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth, after Franchi walked, was sacrificed to second by Holcomb and went to third on a ground out. Wallace received a walk to put runners at first and third. Franchi scored on a double steal.

Linfield edged back to a two-run lead when Hancock reached base on an error and eventually scored in the fifth inning. Four more runs in the sixth inning gave Linfield control of the game with a 7-1 advantage. Two of the runs scored on a homer by Brunette to center field and two reached the plate on a single by Keagbine.

Brunette was 2 for 3 with a double, two runs and two RBIs for Linfield. Stephanie Rice was 2 for 5 with a double and scored twice. McKensie booth went 2 for 3. Franchi walked twice and scored Willamette's only run,while going 1 for 1 at the plate.

Kendra Strahm pitched all seven innings for LC in the second game and allowed just four hits to register the win. She improved to 16-1 on the season. Miller, who struck out seven batters in the opener, received no decision. Samantha Van Noy, who went to the circle for Linfield with one out in the fourth inning, took the loss and fell to 2-1.

Franchi improved to 18-3 with the win for Willamette in the opener. She struck out five batters and allowed not walks. Bohren started the second game and suffered the loss as she fell to 2-3 on the season.

Willamette will close out the regular season with a pair of make-up games at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., on Tuesday, April 29. First pitch in the NWC doubleheader is set for 5 p.m. (PDT).

GAME #1 - BOX SCORE

Willamette University 6, Linfield College 5

GAME #2 - BOX SCORE

Linfield College 7, Willamette University 1

LaShawna Holcomb hit a single in the seventh inning to bring home the winning run against Linfield.

LaShawna Holcomb hit a single in the seventh inning to bring home the winning run against Linfield.