Willamette Splits Twilight Doubleheader at Pacific

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

FOREST GROVE, ORE. -- Willamette University and Pacific University split a doubleheader on Tuesday, April 29, as the Boxers claimed a 3-1 win in the first game and the Bearcats rallied for a 9-2 victory in the second game, in Northwest Conference action at Sherman/Larkins Stadium. Willamette concluded the regular season at 25-11, 19-9 in the NWC. Pacific moved to 30-8 overall, 19-7 in the Northwest Conference.

The NWC split gives Pacific an edge in efforts by both teams to receive at large bids to the NCAA Division III National Tournament. Pacific won three out of four games with the Bearcats this spring, taking two one-run wins and Tuesday's two-run victory.

Even so, Willamette has clinched at least a third place finish in the conference standings and will tie for second place if Pacific loses both games in a doubleheader at NWC leader Linfield College on Thursday, May 1. Linfield has already clinched the NWC title and an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

Pacific built a 2-0 lead in the first game by tallying a single run in each of the first two innings. In the first, Stephanie Vanoudenhaegen hit a lead-off single and moved to second on a ground out. Two batters later, Kristen Croxford singled to left field. Vanoudenhaegen scored on the play when catcher Jayleen Morris (So., Waldport, OR/Waldport HS) misplayed a throw to the plate by Cirbi Anthony (Jr., LF, Vale, OR/Vale HS).

In the second inning, Carrie Maerz opened the stanza with an inside-the-park home run. She hit the ball to right field, and it may have gone under the fence, but umpires ruled the ball was in play and Maerz rounded the bases.

The 'Cats cut the lead to 2-1 when Nikki Franchi (Jr., RHP/DP, Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) scored in the fourth inning. With one out, Franchi walked. She advanced to second on a wild pitch and moved to third on a fly out by LaShawna Holcomb (Jr., CF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS). Katie Peterson (So., RF, Independence, OR/Central HS) drove in Franchi with a double to left center.

Brooke Fogwell doubled to start the sixth inning for Pacific. She moved to third on a bunt single by Maerz and scored on a double steal one out later.

Miranda McNealy, who pitched a complete game for the Boxers, faced just three Bearcats in the top of the seventh. Each batter hit the ball to Maerz at shortstop. She assisted on two ground outs and caught a fly ball for the final out of the game.

Croxford, Fogwell and Maerz each went 2 for 3 in the first game for Pacific. Willamette's three hits were produced by Peterson, Marissa Richards (Jr., 1B, Newberg, OR/Newberg HS) and Debra Bohren (So., DP, Tillamook, OR/Tillamook HS).

McNealy upped her record to 17-3 while allowing just three hits and striking out five batters. Franchi gave up eight hits and struck out eight batters.

In the second game, Franchi recorded equally positive numbers. She held the Boxers to just six hits -- five singles and one double. She also struck out an additional seven batters to finish the regular season with a Willamette record 203 strikeouts on the season. She also owns Willamette's career record with 401 strikeouts the past three years.

Despite Franchi's solid performance, Pacific took a 2-0 lead. Two hits and an error led to the first run, which was scored by Kelly Nishitomi in the first inning.

With Nishitomi at first and one out, Caitlin Mastenbroek put down a sacrifice bunt. Franchi committed a throwing error on the play, leaving runners at first and second. After Croxford was called out on an infield fly, Fogwell singled to drive Nishitomi home.

In the third inning, Nishitomi reached base again with one out, this time on a fielding error at shortstop. She moved to second on a ground out by Mastenbroek and scored on a double by Croxford. It was Pacific's only extra-base hit of the game.

Pacific never scored again, as Franchi limited the Boxers to three hits the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Willamette rallied with three runs in the fifth inning and six runs in the sixth.

WU's three-run fifth featured an RBI single by Richards and a two-run double to left field by Holcomb. Lizzy Whittemore (Fr., 3B, Yarmouth, ME/Albertson College) scored the first run, with Anthony and Richards crossing the plate on Holcomb's extra-base hit.

In the sixth inning, the Bearcats collected four hits and Pacific made two errors. Bohren reached base on a fielder's choice and scored the only earned run of the inning on a single up the middle by Anthony. After Liz Gilgan (Sr., SS, Sherwood, OR/Sherwood HS) reached base on catcher's interference, the Bearcats had the bases loaded with only one out.

Richards batted next and hit the ball to Alicia Hawes at shortstop. Hawes threw to home plate, but committed an error, allowing Whittemore to score. Franchi drove in Anthony with a sacrifice fly to center and Holcomb brought in two runs with a single to left. Peterson earned the final RBI with a single to center.

Holcomb went 2 for with a run and four RBIs in the win. Gilgan and Peterson also went 2 for 4. Richards was 2 for 5 with two runs and an RBI. Anthony and Whittemore each scored twice, with Anthony also driving in one run.

Nishitomi was 2 for 4 and scored both runs for the Boxers. Pacific's other four hits were recorded by four different players.

Franchi allowed no earned runs during the victory and improved to 19-4. She set a Willamette record for wins in a season, breaking the old record set by Cari Dobes, who went 16-13 in 1994. Franchi moved to 34-16 during her three years at Willamette and needs three victories to equal the career record of Hayley Boston, set from 2000-03.

GAME #1 - BOX SCORE

Pacific University 3, Willamette University 1

GAME #2 - BOX SCORE

Willamette University 9, Pacific University 2

Nikki Franchi pitched all 13 innings in WU's doubleheader at Pacific. She finished the year with a 19-4 record and 203 strikeouts.

Nikki Franchi pitched all 13 innings in WU's doubleheader at Pacific. She finished the year with a 19-4 record and 203 strikeouts.