Franchi Strikes Out 10 Loggers in 4-0 Win over Puget Sound

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

TACOMA, WASH. -- Senior pitcher Nikki Franchi (RHP, Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) struck out 10 batters and Talissa Huntsman (Fr., 1B, Richland, WA/Richland HS) hit her first college home run, as Willamette University defeated the University of Puget Sound, 4-0, in the first game of a doubleheader on Friday, March 26. Willamette won the second game, 5-0.

Alex Watilo (Fr., RHP, Newcastle, CA/Del Oro HS) threw a two-hit shutout in the nightcap. Franchi blasted a three-run homer in the sixth inning to break a 0-0 tie.

The victories improved the Bearcats to 14-1 overall, 7-1 in the Northwest Conference. WU is ranked #7 this week in NCAA Division III. Puget Sound dropped to 8-13 overall, 2-7 in the NWC.

Franchi moved to 7-1 with the win in the opener. She has recorded three shutouts this season, while earning 78 strikeouts in 52 innings pitched. She held UPS to just three hits. Auriel Sperberg took the loss for the Loggers and fell to 5-6. She struck out three WU players and allowed one walk.

Huntsman's home run was a solo shot in the top of the second inning to give WU an early lead. The Bearcats maintained the lead, then added three insurance runs in the sixth inning. Lessel was hit by a pitch to start the rally. She scored when an error by first baseman Victoria Raeburn on a failed pickoff attempt allowed her to advance the final three bases.

Nicole Wallace (Jr., C,, Roseville, CA/Roseville HS) followed with a single on a bunt down the third base line. Franchi reached on a fielder's choice, as Wallace was put out at second. LaShawna Holcomb (Sr., CF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS) doubled to center field, moving Franchi to third. One out later, Mica Romero (Fr., SS, Woodland, CA/Woodland Christian HS) drove in both runners with a single through the left side.

Franchi faced just three batters in the sixth inning, but the Loggers started the bottom of the seventh with a double by Raeburn. Franchi forced Anthea Aasen into a ground out, as Raeburn advanced to third base. Megan Janes struck out and Kelsey Scanlan sent a ground ball toward first, allowing Huntsman to register the final out of the game.

Holcomb was 2 for 3, as the Bearcats earned six hits overall. Huntsman finished the game 1 for 2 and walked once. Other WU players with a hit were Wallace, Romero and Susie Krewer (Fr., 2B, Sacramento, CA/Mira Loma HS).

The second game was well on its way to heading scoreless into extra innings, but the 'Cats broke the 0-0 tie with Franchi's home run in the sixth.

Suzannah Von Trapp (Fr., 3B, Salem, OR/South Salem HS) opened the inning with a single. Sierra Lessel (Fr., OF, Eugene, OR/Churchill HS) also singled, and Wallace sacrificed the runners to second and third with a grounder to first base. Franchi's homer to right center field gave WU a 3-0 lead.

The Bearcats added two runs in the seventh. Romero singled and stole second base. Huntsman walked, then Willamette strung together three sacrifice bunts in a row.

The first bunt, by Watilo, scored Romero. The second drove in Huntsman and resulted in an error, allowing Von Trapp to reach first base. Cirbi Anthony (Sr., LF, Vale, OR/Vale HS) also sacrificed, as Von Trapp went to second. The Loggers caught Von Trapp stealing third to end the stanza.

Watilo got out of a bases-loaded jam in the second inning to keep the game scoreless. With one out, Puget Sound used an infield single by Aasen, an error and a hit batsmen to fill the bases. Watilo struck out Caroline Moore for the second out. Amelia Kurashige-Elliott grounded out to first base for the third out.

The Loggers also threatened to score with one out in the third inning, when Meghan Watson singled and pitcher Aryn Grause reached base on an error. WU got out of the inning when Krewer at second base started a 4-6-3 double play.

Franchi was 2 for 3 in the second game. Five other Bearcats registered one hit apiece. Willamette achieved seven hits during the game.

WU will return to action on Sunday, March 29 with a doubleheader at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash. The Bearcats and the Lutes are scheduled to start the twinbill at 12 p.m. (PDT).

Willamette University 4
University of Puget Sound 0
Willamette University 5
University of Puget Sound 0
Nikki Franchi allowed just three hits in WU's 4-0 win to start the doubleheader at Puget Sound.

Nikki Franchi allowed just three hits in WU's 4-0 win to start the doubleheader at Puget Sound.