Willamette Sweeps Lutes in Softball, 2-0 and 8-3

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University pitcher Nikki Franchi (Sr., Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) limited Pacific Lutheran University to three hits, as the Bearcats defeated the Lutes, 2-0, to start a Northwest Conference doubleheader at the WU Softball Field on Saturday, April 11. Willamette produced 13 hits in the second game to completed the sweep with an 8-3 victory.

The Bearcats, ranked #11 in NCAA Division III, upped their record to 25-2 overall, including 18-2 in the NWC. Pacific Lutheran saw its record drop to 12-20 overall, 10-10 in the NWC.

Willamette took a 1-0 lead in the second inning of the opener. Mica Romero (Fr., SS, Woodland, CA/Woodland Christian HS) walked, stole second, and scored on a single by Nicole Wallace (Jr., C, Roseville, CA/Roseville HS).

The 'Cats tacked on another run in their next at bat. Sierra Lessel (Fr., OF, Eugene, OR/Churchill HS) singled to right field and scored two outs later on a base hit by LaShawna Holcomb (Sr., CF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS).

Franchi improved to 13-1 on the season with the win in the opener. She struck out five batters and allowed just one walk. Caitlin Brown of PLU hit a triple with one out in the first inning, but a strikeout and a ground out ended the threat.

The Lutes came close to scoring again in the second inning, when Vanessa Bryant walked and Eryn Beal and Missy Waldron singled. On Waldron's single with two outs to center field, Holcomb threw out Bryant at the plate to end the inning.

Franchi did not give up another hit the rest of the game. WU committed three errors -- one each in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings -- but PLU hit into two double plays and had a runner picked off at first base by Wallace.

WU registered seven hits in the first game, led by Lessel's 3-for-3 performance. Four other Bearcats had one hit apiece.

Two big innings made the difference for Willamette in Game #2. Bryant doubled and eventually scored in the top of the second inning to give PLU a 1-0 lead, but the Bearcats exploded for four runs in the bottom of the inning. Suzannah Von Trapp (Fr., 3B, Salem, OR/South Salem HS) drove in two runs with an RBI single. Two more runners crossed the plate on a single to center by Lessel.

The Lutes pulled within 4-2 in the top of the third inning and kept the score than way until WU batted in the bottom of the fifth. The 'Cats plated an additional four runs on five hits. The inning was highlighted by a triple from Lessel that drove in two runs. Von Trapp and Marissa Richards (Sr., 1B, Newberg, OR/Newberg HS) each added an RBI single.

PLU concluded the scoring with a single tally in the seventh. Brown, who reached base on a fielder's choice, scored the run when Jordan Liebe doubled to right field with two outs. Bryant grounded out to second base to end the game.

Lessel was 3 for 4 with a run and four RBIs in the second game. She finished the doubleheader 6 of 7 for the 'Cats. Franchi and Richards each went 3 for 3 in the nightcap. Romero contributed two hits and two runs in three at bats.

For the Lutes, Stacey Hagensen was 2 for 3 and Amber Roberts went 2 for 4 in the second game. Brown was 1 for 4 with a triple and two runs scored.

Alex Watilo (Fr., RHP, Newcastle, CA/Del Oro HS) received the win for Willamette. She struck out three batters and did not allow a walk, while throwing a complete game. She improved her record to 12-1. Hagensen took the loss for Pacific Lutheran and dropped to 9-8 on the season.

Willamette's next games are slated for Saturday, April 18 at Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash. The first game is scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. (PDT).

GAME #1 - BOX SCORE
Willamette University 2
Pacific Lutheran University 0
GAME #2 - BOX SCORE
Willamette University 8
Pacific Lutheran University 3
Sierra Lessel of Willamette had an outstanding day with six hits in seven at bats during the doubleheader.

Sierra Lessel of Willamette had an outstanding day with six hits in seven at bats during the doubleheader.