Stepan Belts Two Homers to Help Willamette Split Doubleheader

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Junior catcher Max Stepan (Pueblo, CO/Pueblo County HS) hit two home runs in the second game of Willamette University's doubleheader against Lewis & Clark College on Saturday, March 6, helping the Bearcats gain a split of the twinbill with a 10-8 victory. Lewis & Clark won the first game, 6-4.

Both teams are 3-6 on the season. Lewis & Clark is now 2-3 in the Northwest Conference, while Willamette is 1-1 in conference play. Saturday's doubleheader was the home opener and NWC opener for the Bearcats.

Bearcats Score 10 Runs on 11 Hits and 12 Walks in Game #2

In the second game, Stepan gave WU a 2-1 lead with one of his two 2-run homers. He launched the ball over the center field fence and into the trees at Bush's Pasture Park in the bottom of the first inning. Doug Bloom (Jr., SS, Salem, OR/South Salem HS), who started the inning with a single up the middle, also scored on the play.

Willamette added two runs in the second inning for a 4-1 advantage. Tim Schilf (So., 3B, Honolulu, HI/Iolani School) walked to open the stanza, moved to second on a ground out, stole third and scored the first run on a wild pitch. The second run was tallied by Eli Kass (Fr., 2B, Santa Cruz, CA/Santa Cruz HS), who walked and later crossed the plate on a single by Stepan.

Walks continued to plague the Lewis & Clark pitching staff throughout the second game, as the Pioneers walked a total of 12 batters. A balk and five wild pitches also aided the Willamette offense.

The Bearcats pounded out 11 hits in Game #2. Stepan led the way with a 3-for-3 performance, as he scored three runs and registered five RBIs. He also walked twice.

Stepan's second two-run homer cleared the center field fence in the fifth inning. Derek Collins (Fr., 1B, Yorba Linda, CA/Esperanza HS) followed Stepan with a walk and later scored on an infield ground out, as WU put up three runs during the inning for a 7-2 lead.

Willamette extended the lead to 10-3 by tallying three runs in the sixth inning on one hit and four walks. Collins brought in two of the runs with a bases-loaded single to center. The third run was scored by Stepan, who walked, moved to third on the single by Collins and scored on a wild pitch.

The Pioneers battled back with two runs in the seventh and four runs in the eighth. In the seventh, shortstop Sam Morgan drove in catcher Andrew Fisina with a two-out single. Morgan scored two batters later, when Eliot Smith's fly ball to left field was misplayed.

In the eighth. Jim Bray singled with one out, but Frisina hit into the second out on a fly ball to right field. Walks issued to Zach Perez and Michael Ball loaded the bases. Morgan powered a grand slam homer to center field, as WU's lead slipped to 10-8.

Relief pitcher Scott Martin (Sr., RHP, Honolulu, HI/Punahou School) entered the game after the next batter, Tucker Laurence, was hit by a pitch. Martin gave up a single to Smith, who was caught stealing in a 1-6-3 run-down. Laurence attempted to score from third on the play, but Smith was tagged out just before Laurence crossed the plate.

The game entered the last inning with the Bearcats still in front, 10-8. Freshman pitcher Parker Johnson (RHP, Carlsbad, CA/La Costa Canyon HS) made sure the lead held, as he faced just three batters in the top of the ninth to earn his first save.

WU starting pitcher Chris Torgerson (Jr., RHP, Sacramento, CA/Jesuit HS) went six innings and recorded the win. He improved to 2-1 on the season. He allowed six hits and two runs, while striking out two batters. David La Douceur took the loss for L&C.

Bloom was 2 for 4 with two runs during the game for Willamette. Collins also went 2 for 4, while scoring once and driving in two runs. Mitchell Rowan (So., RF, Cotati, CA/Rancho Cotate HS) went 1 for 2 with two walks and two runs.

For Lewis & Clark, Morgan finished the game 3 for 5 with two runs and five RBIs. Bray was 2 for 4 and crossed the plate one time.

Pioneers Build 6-0 Lead in Game #1

Willamette's offense, which entered the day with a string of 23 consecutive scoreless innings, struggled on offense during the early part of the first game. Through six innings, the Bearcats had five hits and no runs, while L&C held a 5-0 lead. Even so, WU created a couple of scoring chances during those six innings.

In the fourth, Schilf doubled and moved to third on a fly out by Rowan, but was thrown attempting to score after catcher Geoff Wertz threw wildly to the mound. Stepan also doubled following a walk issued to T.C. Lee (Jr., LF, Lafayette, CA/Acalanes HS), but both runners were left on base when starting pitcher Alex St. Pierre ended the inning with a strikeout.

In the sixth, Schilf singled and Rowan doubled with one out. St. Pierre forced Lee to strike out and Stepan to ground out to end the inning.

The Pioneers tacked on a run in the top of the seventh when Laurence scored from third just before Nate Grisham was caught stealing between first and second for the final out of the stanza. L&C owned a 6-0 advantage.

Willamette put three runs on the scoreboard in the bottom of the seventh. Collins singled to start the inning and gave way to pinch runner Mikey Lemon (So., OF, McMinnville, OR/McMinnville HS/Linfield College). Dylan Summers (So., C, Lake Oswego, OR/Lakeridge HS) walked, then both runners advanced one base on a passed ball.

Lemon scored on a ground out by Tyson Giza (Fr., CF, Salem, OR/Sprague HS) and Summers crossed the plate on another throwing mistake by Wertz. Bloom followed with a solo home run, his first of the season.

WU had the bases loaded with one out in the eighth, but was unable to score. In the ninth, Bloom singled and stole second base. He scored two outs later, when Samuel Sopko (Fr., OF, Missoula, MT/Loyola Sacred Heart HS) reached first on an error. Stepan flied out to left field to end the game.

Lewis & Clark was led by Ball, who went 2 for 5 with two solo home runs. Laurence also went 2 for 5 and hit one solo homer. Roland Greene was 2 for 4 and Sam Holman was 2 for 3. Bloom finished the game 2 for 5 with two runs and an RBI for Willamette. Stepan went 2 for 5 and Schilf finished the game 2 for 4.

St. Pierre was the winning pitcher for L&C. He registered eight strikeouts during the game. Devin Grindy (Jr., RHP, Washougal, WA/Camas HS) of Willamette fell to 1-1 with the loss.

The teams will conclude the series with one game on Sunday, March 7. First pitch at John Lewis Field is slated for 12 p.m. (PST).

Lewis & Clark College 6
Willamette University 4
Willamette University 10
Lewis & Clark College 8
Max Stepan blasted a pair of two-run homers in Willamette's 10-8 victory over Lewis & Clark.

Max Stepan blasted a pair of two-run homers in Willamette's 10-8 victory over Lewis & Clark.