Willamette Defeats Whitman, 6-4, to Win Weekend Series

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

WALLA WALLA, WASH. -- Led by catcher Max Stepan (Jr., Pueblo, CO/Pueblo County HS) and designated hitter Mitchell Rowan (So., Cotati, CA/Rancho Cotate HS), Willamette University defeated Whitman College, 6-4, on Sunday, April 18 to win the Northwest Conference series two games to one. Stepan belted two doubles and a triple, while Rowan smacked his team-leading 10th home run of the season.

The Bearcats ended the day at 12-19 overall, 8-10 in the NWC. Whitman dropped to 4-28, overall, 4-17 in the conference.

Both teams registered just eight hits, but the Bearcats, led by Stepan and Rowan, pounded out six extra-base hits, while all of Whitman's hits were singles.

Whitman struck first with a run in the first inning. Patrick Stauffer led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jay Richards. Stauffer stole third and scored on a throwing error on the play.

In the top of the second, WU tied the score. With two outs, Stepan tripled to right center. T.C. Lee (Jr., LF, Lafayette, CA/Acalanes HS) batted next and pounded a double, also to right center, as Stepan crossed the plate.

The Bearcats moved in front with three runs in the fourth inning and added two runs in the fifth for a 6-1 edge.

Rowan blasted a solo homer to open the fourth. One out later, Sky Kelley (Fr., RF, Canby, OR/Jesuit HS) walked and Stepan doubled down the right field line. Lee brought home Kelley with a single, then stole second base. Stepan scored when Whitman attempted to throw out Lee on the steal attempt.

With two outs in the fifth, Derek Collins (Fr., 1B, Yorba Linda, CA/Esperanza HS/Fullerton College) walked and Kelley reached base on catcher's interference. Stepan followed with a double down the left field line, driving in both Collins and Kelley.

Willamette continued to hold a five-run lead until the bottom of the seventh, when the Missionaries plated three runs. Whitman started the inning with four consecutive singles to score a run and load the bases. Erik Korsmo walked to bring in the second run.

Relief pitcher Blake Paisley (So., RHP, Saratoga, CA/Saratoga HS) entered the game for Willamette. He hit the first batter he faced, Blaine Mercado, as the Missionaries scored a run to pull within 6-4. Paisley then forced Jason Sease to hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

In the bottom of the ninth, Paisley hit Stauffer with a pitch to start the inning. He then forced a 5-4-3 double play. Eric Tolleson kept Whitman alive with an infield hit, but Korsmo grounded out to shortstop Doug Bloom (Jr., Salem, OR/South Salem HS) for the final out of the game.

WU starting pitcher Chris Torgerson (Jr., RHP, Sacramento, CA/Jesuit HS) improved to 5-3. He allowed just one run and three hits in the first six innings, before having trouble in the seventh. He went 6 1/3 innings with three strikeouts and five walks.

Mercado, who threw all nine innings for Whitman, struck out six batters and walked three, while falling to 1-9 on the season. At the plate, the Missionaries received two hits apiece from Stauffer, Richards and Tolleson.

Stepan was 3 for 4 with two runs and a pair of RBIs for Willamette. Lee went 2 for 4 and drove in two runs.

The Bearcats will play home April 24-25 against Whitworth University in a three-game NWC series. The teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday and one game on Sunday, starting at 12 p.m. (PDT) each day at John Lewis Field.

Willamette University 6
Whitman College 4
Max Stepan was 3 for 4 at the plate with a triple and two doubles.

Max Stepan was 3 for 4 at the plate with a triple and two doubles.