Franchi's Homer in Seventh Inning Gives WU a 2-0 Win over Linfield to Start Doubleheader

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

McMINNVILLE, ORE. -- Senior Nikki Franchi (RHP/DP, Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) blasted a two-run homer in the top of the seventh inning to break a scoreless tie and send Willamette University to a 2-0 victory over Linfield College in the first game of a doubleheader on Sunday, April 26. Franchi also threw a complete-game and allowed just one hit in the opener. Linfield rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the second game to defeat the Bearcats, 5-3, and split the twinbill.

The doubleheader matched two nationally-ranked teams in NCAA Division III. Linfield was ranked #2 and Willamette was ranked #10 in this week's NCAA Division III Top 25 released by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA).

Willamette moved to 29-6 overall, including 22-6 in the NWC. Linfield went to 36-4 on the season and finished first in the NWC with a 26-2 record. The Wildcats will receive the NWC's automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament.

Franchi and Linfield pitcher Brittany Miller waged a pitcher's duel for most of the first game. The only hit off Franchi was a lead-off single up the middle by Kayla Hubrich in the third inning. Hubrich was left stranded at first. Miller held Willamette without a hit until the top of the seventh.

With one out in the seventh, Marissa Richards (Sr., 1B, Newberg, OR/Newberg HS) walked. Franchi followed with her two-run homer to supply the game's only runs. LaShawna Holcomb (Sr., CF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS) doubled, forcing Lauren Harvey to take over for Miller in the circle. Harvey caused WU to hit into back-to-back ground outs to end the inning.

Franchi faced just three batters in the bottom of the seventh to secure the win. Emily Keagbine flied out to center field, Natalie Taylor flied out to right field and Candice Fujino lined out to right field.

As a pitcher, Franchi struck out three batters and allowed four walks. Miller registered eight strikeouts and gave up two walks.

In the second game, the Bearcats posted three runs in the top of the third for a 3-0 lead. Richards drove in Suzannah Von Trapp (Fr., 3B, Salem, OR/South Salem HS) with a fielder's choice. An error on the play also allowed Nicole Wallace (Sr., C, Roseville, CA/Roseville HS) to reach the plate. Sierra Lessel (Fr., OF, Eugene, OR/Churchill HS) scored later in the inning on an sacrifice fly by Franchi.

Taylor reached first base for Linfield on an error to start the bottom of the third. She went to second on a passed ball and advanced to third when Hubrich hit into a ground out for the second out of the inning. Jaydee Baxter and Sami Keim walked to load the bases. Emilee Lepp doubled to drive in Taylor and Baxter.

One stanza later, the Wildcats tied the score, 3-3. Alex Hartmann doubled and was sacrificed to third with a bunt by Keagbine. WU starter Alex Watilo (Fr., RHP, Newcastle, CA/Del Oro HS) hit Taylor with a pitch. Franchi replaced Wautilo and hit Fujino with the pitch to load the bases. Hubrich struck out, but Baxter was hit by a pitch to send Hartmann across the plate.

Linfield pulled ahead in the fifth inning. Lepp and Staci Doucette each earned a single, before Hartmann and Keagbine flied out. Taylor gave the Wildcats the lead with a two-RBI single to left field.

Franchi singled to start the sixth inning for WU, but she was thrown out when Holcomb hit into a fielder's choice. Mica Romero (Fr., SS, Woodland, CA/Woodland Christian)received a walked, forcing Holcomb to second. Another fielder's choice left runners at first and third. Wallace grounded out to end the inning.

Lepp went 2 for 4 with a run and two RBIs for Linfield. She was the only player for either team with more than one hit. Watilo and Franchi limited the Wildcats to six hits, while Harvey held Willamette to three hits.

Franchi received both pitching decisions for Willamette on the afternoon, as her season record went to 16-3. For Linfield, Miller lost the first game to fall to 13-2, while Harvey received her first decision of the year by winning the second game.

Willamette University 2
Linfield College 0
Linfield College 5
Willamette University 3
Nikki Franchi smacked a two-run homer in the 7th inning to lead WU to a 2-0 win in Game #1. Franchi also pitched a one-hitter during the game.

Nikki Franchi smacked a two-run homer in the 7th inning to lead WU to a 2-0 win in Game #1. Franchi also pitched a one-hitter during the game.

Marissa Richards scored a run in the opener and achieved an RBI in the second game.

Marissa Richards scored a run in the opener and achieved an RBI in the second game.