Franchi Earns 13 Strikeouts, Romero Hits Two Homers, as Bearcats Sweep Pirates

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

SPOKANE, WASH. -- Willamette University senior pitcher Nikki Franchi (RHP, Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) threw a complete-game two-hitter and struck out 13 batters, leading the Bearcats to a 5-0 victory over Whitworth University in the first game of a doubleheader on Sunday, April 19. In the second game, Willamette shortstop Mica Romero (Fr., Woodland, CA/Woodland Christian HS) belted a pair of three-run homers, as the Bearcats won 8-0.

The wins improved Willamette to 28-3 overall, 21-3 in the Northwest Conference. The Bearcats are ranked #7 in NCAA Division III. Whitworth dropped to 15-17 overall, 11-11 in the NWC.

In the first game, Franchi supplemented her pitching with a 3-for-4 effort at the plate. She scored once and had one RBI. Marissa Richards (Sr., 1B, Newberg, OR/Newberg HS) was 2 for 3 during the game with a run and an RBI for the Bearcats. Romero was 2 for 2 with a triple and an RBI. Five different 'Cats scored.

The Bearcats plated one run in each of the first three innings. Richards doubled and later scored on a throwing error in the first. Talissa Huntsman (Fr., DP/1B, Richland, WA/Richland HS) walked and then scored on a double by Suzannah Von Trapp (Fr., 3B, Salem, OR/South Salem HS) in the second. Franchi singled in the third and eventually scored on Romero's triple.

Two runs for WU in the top of the seventh increased the lead to 5-0. Richards provided a sacrifice squeeze bunt and Franchi earned an RBI single during the stanza. The runs were scored by Cirbi Anthony (Sr., LF, Vale, OR/Vale HS), who opened the inning with a walk, and by Von Trapp, who was hit by a pitch.

Franchi, 15-1 on the season, allowed just two singles. She also gave up three walks and hit two batters. Kelsey Ayers of Whitworth earned five strikeouts, but gave up nine hits and three walks, while hitting one batter. She fell to 5-9 with the loss.

In Game #2, Romero's home runs produced a 6-0 lead for the Bearcats. She smacked one homer in the top of the first inning and blasted the second homer in the third inning. WU tacked on two runs in the top of the seventh.

With two outs in the first stanza, Franchi singled to right and LaShawna Holcomb (Sr., CF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS) was hit by a pitch. Romero's homer followed, giving the 'Cats an early lead.

Two innings later, Richard doubled to left field with one out. With two outs, Holcomb singled through the left side and went to second, as Whitworth held Richards at third. Romero's second homer put three more runs on the scoreboard.

Von Trapp walked and Huntsman singled to start the seventh. One out later, Franchi sent a sacrifice fly to right field to drive in Von Trapp. Huntsman tallied the game's final run, as Holcomb followed Franchi with a double to left field.

Romero was 3 for 4 in the second game for the Bearcats. Holcomb went 2 for 3, scored twice and had one RBI. Richards was 2 for 4 and crossed the plate once.

Willamette pitcher Alex Watilo (Fr., RHP, Newcastle, CA/Del Oro HS) limited the Pirates to three hits, as three Whitworth players registered one hit apiece. Watilo recorded one strikeout and allowed two walks. She upped her record to 13-2.

Romero ended the day 5 for 6 with two homers and a triple. She scored twice and earned seven RBIs during the doubleheader.

The Bearcats will close out the regular season with a four-game series against Linfield College. The teams will play two games at the WU Softball Field on Saturday, April 25 and will play a doubleheader at Linfield on Sunday, April 26. Action is set to begin at 12 p.m. (PDT).

Linfield, ranked #1 in NCAA Division III, leads the NWC standings at 22-1. The Wildcats are 32-3 overall. Willamette trails Linfield by two games in the loss column.

GAME #1 - BOX SCORE
Willamette University 5
Whitworth University 0
GAME #2 - BOX SCORE
Willamette University 8
Whitworth University 0
Nikki Franchi struck out 13 batters in the first game to improve to 15-1 this season.

Nikki Franchi struck out 13 batters in the first game to improve to 15-1 this season.

Shortstop Mica Romero smacked a triple in first game and blasted two 3-run homers in the second game.

Shortstop Mica Romero smacked a triple in first game and blasted two 3-run homers in the second game.