Bearcats Open Season with Pair of Wins at Northwest Cup

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

PORTLAND, ORE. -- The Willamette University softball team opened the 2009 season with two victories on Sunday, Feb. 22, at the Northwest Cup, hosted by Concordia University (Ore.). The Bearcats, ranked #23 in the NCAA Division III Preseason Poll released by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), scored 17 runs in the two games.

WU defeated Eastern Oregon University, 9-5, in the first game. The Bearcats posted one or more runs in five of seven innings in the second game to outscore Northwest Christian University, 8-5.

Willamette is 2-0 on the season. Eastern Oregon fell to 2-4 and Northwest Christian dropped to 2-2. The Bearcats were originally set to play Eastern Oregon and Concordia, but Sunday's overall Northwest Cup schedule had to be changed.

In the first game, senior pitcher Nikki Franchi (RHP, Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) threw all seven innings and recorded six strikeouts. LaShawna Holcomb (Sr., CF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS) went 3 for 4 at the plate with two runs scored.

Sierra Lessel (Fr., RF, Eugene, OR/Churchill HS) hit a solo home run in her first college at bat as the lead-off hitter for the Bearcats. She tied the score at 1-1. Megan Monaghan of EOU drove in Iris Woodhead in the top of the first inning on an RBI ground out.

WU led 6-1 after scoring five runs in the third inning. The key hit was a three-RBI double to left field by Mica Romero (Fr., SS, Woodland, CA/Woodland Christian). Franchi, Holcomb and Nicole Wallace (Jr., C, Roseville, CA/Roseville HS) scored on the play.

Eastern Oregon cut the lead to 6-5 in the top of the fifth. The Mountaineers scored four runs during the stanza, including three on a homer by Monaghan. The 'Cats responded with two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and another run in the sixth.

In the second game, freshman pitcher Alex Watilo (RHP, Newcastle, CA/Del Oro HS) tossed a complete game. She struck out eight batters and allowed two walks in seven innings. Northwest Christian outhit the Bearcats, 11-8, but Willamette led 7-2 after 5 1/2 innings. Eight different 'Cats scored one run apiece.

Franchi, who was Willamette's designated player in the second game, hit a two-run homer in the top of the fifth inning to give the Bearcats a 5-2 advantage. Holcomb went 2 for 4 including a double, and Lessel was 2 for 3 with a triple and two RBIs.

Willamette will host a pair of exhibition games against the University of British Columbia on Saturday, Feb. 28. Game time at the Willamette University Softball Field is set for 2 p.m. (PST).

GAME #1 - BOX SCORE

Willamette University 9
Eastern Oregon University 5

GAME #2 - BOX SCORE
Willamette University 8
Northwest Christian University 5
LaShawna Holcomb was 5 for 8 and scored a total of three runs in Willamette's two games.

LaShawna Holcomb was 5 for 8 and scored a total of three runs in Willamette's two games.