Bearcats (Ranked #11) Defeat Puget Sound in Doubleheader, 3-1 and 3-2

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University, ranked #11 in NCAA Division III, won a pair of close Northwest Conference games with strong pitching and timely hitting, as the Bearcats defeated the University of Puget Sound, 3-1 and 3-2, on Friday, April 10 at the WU Softball Field. Willamette upped its record to 23-2 overall, 16-2 in the NWC. The Loggers fell to 10-19 on the season, 4-12 in the conference.

In the first game, Nikki Franchi (Sr., RHP/DP, Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) struck out 12 batters and Talissa Huntsman (Fr., DH/1B, Richland, WA/Richland HS) drove in two runs with a single in the fifth inning. In the second game, Marissa Richards (Sr., 1B, Newberg, OR/Newberg HS) and Franchi hit back-to-back sacrifice flies in the bottom of the seventh inning, as the 'Cats rallied from a 2-1 deficit.

Franchi and UPS pitcher Auriel Sperberg kept both teams off the scoreboard in the opener until Huntsman's single gave the Bearcats a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth.

Mica Romero (Fr., SS, Woodland,CA/Woodland Christian HS) singled to start the inning. With one out, Nicole Wallace (Jr., C, Roseville, CA/Roseville HS) walked. Huntsman's single followed and broke the scoreless tie, as Romero and Wallace crossed the plate.

Puget Sound cut the lead to 2-1 with a run in the top of the sixth. Amelia Kurashige-Elliott walked, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a double by Meghan Watson.

The 'Cats responded with an insurance run in the bottom of the stanza. Sierra Lessel (Fr., OF, Eugene, OR/Churchill HS) reached first and second on an error by the first baseman. Cirbi Anthony (Sr., OF, Vale, OR/Vale HS) pinch-ran for Lessel and went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Richards. Anthony scored on a sacrifice fly by Franchi.

UPS threatened to rally in the seventh inning. After Megan Janes struck out, Stephanie Hatley reached first base on an error by Krewer. Caroline Moore doubled, moving pinch-runner Nikki LaFemina to third base. Anthea Aasen walked to load the bases. Franchi struck out Kurashige-Elliott and Hilary Rice to end the game.

Franchi improved to 12-1 with the win. She is WU's career leader in pitching victories with a 46-17 overall mark, including 31-5 the past two seasons. Sperberg took the loss for UPS and dropped to 7-10 this spring.

Willamette tallied the first run of Game #2. In the bottom of the second inning, Romero walked and later scored on a wild pitch. The Loggers tied the game in the next half-inning, when Moore reached base on an error and eventually scored on a single by Watson.

Puget Sound gained its only lead of the day when Victoria Raeburn hit her third home run of the season to open the sixth inning. The Loggers still owned a 2-1 advantage when WU came to bat in the bottom of the seventh.

Suzanna Von Trapp (Fr., 3B, Salem, OR/South Salem HS) singled up the middle, and Lessel added an infield hit to moved Von Trapp to third. Lessel stole second. Richards drove in Von Trapp with a sacrifice fly to left field, as Lessel advanced to third. Franchi hit a sacrifice fly to right field to bring in Lessel with the winning run.

WU pitcher Alex Watilo (Fr., RHP, Newcastle. CA/Del Oro HS) allowed five hits and registered four strikeouts, while taking her record to 11-1. Aryn Grause (1-6) threw a complete game for UPS and received the loss.

The teams managed just three hits apiece in the first game. In the second game, WU produced six hits, while UPS earned five. Romero was 3 for 4 in the doubleheader for the 'Cats, while Wallace finished 2 for 3. Watson went 3 of 4 at the plate for the Loggers.

Willamette will host Pacific Lutheran University in an NWC doubleheader on Saturday, April 11. First pitch is scheduled for 12 p.m. (PDT).

GAME #1 - BOX SCORE
Willamette University 3
University of Puget Sound 1
GAME #2 - BOX SCORE
Willamette University 3
University of Puget Sound 2
Nikki Franchi struck out 12 batters as WU's pitcher in Game #1 and drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in Game #2.

Nikki Franchi struck out 12 batters as WU's pitcher in Game #1 and drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in Game #2.

Mica Romero was 3 for 4 with a walk during the doubleheader.

Mica Romero was 3 for 4 with a walk during the doubleheader.