Willamette Sweeps First Day of NWC Series with Pacific

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University received strong pitching from Nicki Franchi and Alex Watilo, as the Bearcats swept the opening doubleheader of their Northwest Conference series with Pacific University, 3-1 and 9-1 on the run rule in five innings, Saturday, March 7 at the WU Softball Field. Franchi registered 10 strikeouts and allowed four hits in the opener. Watilo gave up just three hits and had five strikeouts in the second game.

The Bearcats, ranked #12 in the NCAA Division III Poll conducted by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), improved to 4-0 on the season, 2-0 in the Northwest Conference. Pacific fell to 4-4 overall, 0-2 in the NWC.

Franchi moved to 2-0 with the victory in the opener. In addition to recording double-digit strikeouts, she allowed just two walks. Pacific shortstop Carrie Maerz was the only Boxer to record an extra-base hit during the game. Maerz drove the first pitch she faced in the fifth inning over the left field fence to tie the game, 1-1.

Willamette regained the lead with two runs in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs, Suzannah Von Trapp (Fr., 3B, Salem, OR/South Salem HS) single to left field. Sierra Lessel(Fr., RF, Eugene, OR/Churchill HS) doubled to left, as she drove in Von Trapp with the go-ahead run. LaShawna Holcomb (Sr., CF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS) followed with a triple, allowing Lessel to add an insurance run. Franchi faced just three batters in the top of the seventh.

WU outhit the Boxers, 10-4, in the opener. Holcomb was 3 for 4 and Franchi went 2 for 3. Lessel played in a part in all three Bearcat runs, as she scored twice and earned one RBI.

The 'Cats struck early in the second game, scoring four times in the first inning. Three of the runs were scored on a triple by Nicole Wallace (Jr., C, Roseville, CA/Roseville HS). WU tacked on one run in the second inning, when Holcomb and Franchi hit back-to-back doubles.

Maerz hit her second home run of the doubleheader for Pacific in the top of the third inning. WU responded with two runs in the bottom of the inning, with Von Trapp and Cirbi Anthony (Sr., LF, Vale, OR/Vale HS) scoring for the Bearcats.

Single runs in the fourth and fifth innings clinched the run-rule victory. In the fourth, Talissa Huntsman (Fr., 1B, Richland, WA/Richland HS) drove in Susie Krewer (Fr., 2B, Sacramento, CA/Mira Loma HS) with a ground out, giving WU an 8-1 lead. With two outs in the fifth inning, Holcomb singles, Franchi walked and Krewer walked. Mica Romero (Fr., SS, Woodland, CA/Woodland Christian) singled to bring home Holcomb to end the game, as the 'Cats took an eight-run lead.

Holcomb achieved two hits and scored three runs in four at bats during Game #2. For the doubleheader, she was 5 for 8 at the plate. Krewer went 2 for 2 with two runs in the second game, while Romero was 2 for 3, scored once and drove in one run.

Willamette and Pacific will complete the series with a doubleheader on Sunday, March 8 at the WU Softball Field. The action is scheduled to get underway at 12 p.m. (PDT).

GAME #1 - BOX SCORE
Willamette University 3
Pacific University 1
GAME #2 - BOX SCORE
Willamette University 9
Pacific University 1
5 innings, run rule