Bearcats Start 2-0 During Pool Play in Florida

By Sara Brooks, Assistant Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6219

PANAMA CITY, FLA. -- The Willamette University softball team scored five runs in the top of the seventh inning -- capped by a three-run homer from Mica Romero (So., SS, Woodland, CA/Woodland Christian HS) -- as the Bearcats rallied past the University of La Verne, 5-1, at the NFCA Division III Leadoff Classic on Friday, March 12. In game two, the Bearcats found their offensive groove in the middle innings and held on for a 6-5 victory over Cortland State.

Willamette improved to 9-1 on the season, while La Verne fell to 6-7. Cortland State, which was ranked #6 in the latest NFCA National Poll for NCAA Division III, dropped to 0-2 on the season.

In game one, La Verne scored its only run in the first inning and then held the lead until the seventh inning. The Leopards finished the game with just three hits.

Willamette had an opportunity to score in the second inning and again in the fourth but did not capitalize. However, a strong pitching and defensive effort gave the Bearcats an opportunity to win the game in the final inning.

With one out and two runners on base in seventh, WU tied the game with an RBI single by Sierra Lessel (So., CF, Eugene, OR/Churchill HS). Suzannah Von Trapp (So., 3B, Salem, OR/South Salem HS) scored when Jessica Barry (Fr., LF, Cupertino, CA/U. of Nevada-Las Vegas) reached first base on an error by the catcher, as WU took a 2-1 lead. One out later, Romero blasted her home run to complete the rally.

Alex Watilo (So., P, New Castle, Calif./Del Oro HS) pitched the complete game for the Bearcats. She gave up just three hits and one run. Watilo is now 3-0 overall this season.

Kelli Snyder (Fr., C, Longview, WA/Kelso HS) had two hits and walk during the game. Romero and Kiley Herrick (Fr., INF, Colusa, CA/Colusa HS) each earned a pair of walks.

In the second game, Willamette trailed 1-0 in the third when Romero put the Bearcats on the scoreboard thanks to an RBI double. Barry scored on the play.

Willamette's offense continued to roll in the fourth inning. Taking advantage of an error by the Red Dragons and two walks by Cortland pitch Lyndsay Rowell, the Bearcats scored three runs in the inning on just one hit. Nicole Wallace (Sr., 2B, Roseville, CA/Roseville HS) provided WU with a single during the inning.

After the Red Dragons scored three runs in the top of the fifth to even the score at 4-4, Willamette responded with two runs of its own. Talissa Huntsman (So., UTL, Richland, WA/Richland HS) walked and Wallace smacked a single to put two runners on base for Nichole Robertson (So., RF, Elk Grove, CA/Franklin HS). Robertson took advantage of the situation and hit a single, scoring both Huntsman and Wallace.

Cortland scored one run in the top of the seventh to bring the Red Dragons within one run, 6-5. With the bases loaded and two outs, Huntsman got the Cortland batter to ground out to end the game.

Huntsman earned the victory in relief for the Bearcats. She pitched 2 1./3 innings, giving up four hits and one run. Huntsman's season record is now 3-1. Rowell threw a complete game for the Red Dragons but earned her first loss of the season (0-1).

The Division III Leadoff Classic is sponsored by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA). The Bearcats will complete pool play on Saturday, March 13 at 10:30 a.m. (CST)/8:30 a.m. (PST) against #2-ranked University of Texas-Tyler. UT-Tyler defeated Cortland State, 11-3, on Friday.

Bracket play will begin later on Saturday and will continue through Sunday, March 14.

GAME #1 - BOX SCORE

NFCA Division III Leadoff Classic
At Panama City, Fla.

Willamette University 5
University of La Verne 1

GAME #2 - BOX SCORE
NFCA Division III Leadoff Classic
At Panama City, Fla.

Willamette University 6
Cortland State (N.Y.) 5
Shortstop Mica Romero hit a three-run homer to complete Willamette's rally in the seventh inning.

Shortstop Mica Romero hit a three-run homer to complete Willamette's rally in the seventh inning.