Willamette Scores Three Runs in Ninth Inning to Defeat PLU, 9-8

Giza and Kelley Blast Homers; Bearcats Rally from 7-2 Deficit

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat Pacific Lutheran University, 9-8, in the Northwest Conference opener for both teams on Saturday, March 3 at John Lewis Field. The Bearcats rallied after trailing 7-2 in the middle of the fourth inning.

Brandon Chinn (So., 1B, Salem, OR/Sprague HS), who reached base in the ninth inning on a bunt single followed by a fielding error, scored the winning run on a wild pitch. Chinn was 3 for 4 on the day with two bunt singles, a run scored and one RBI.

Willamette improved to 3-8 overall, 1-0 in the NWC. Pacific Lutheran fell to 5-5 on the season, 0-1 in the NWC.

The bottom of the ninth began with Tiras Koon (Fr., DH/C, Honolulu, HI/Iolani School) receiving a walk on a full-count pitch. Rolenn Himuro (Fr., OF, Honolulu, HI/Punahou School) pinch-ran for Koon and moved to second when Tosh Semlacher (So., 3B, gold River, CA/Jesuit HS) also walked. With two runners on and no one out, Chinn showed bunt on every pitch, but had a 3-1 count before a tapped the ball toward third.

PLU relief pitcher Trevor Lubking, who tossed the final 2 1/3 innings for the Lutes, reached the bunt near the foul line and just over halfway toward third. He threw low and a bit wide of first. The ball sailed past the bag as Chinn reached the base. Himuro and Semlacher scored on the play, while Chinn advanced all the way to third base.

The Lutes registered one strikeout and then intentionally walked Hunter Gallant (Fr., 2B, Rescue, CA/Ponderosa HS) and Tyson Giza (Jr., CF, Salem OR/Sprague HS). With Tommy Kawamura (So., SS, Renton, WA/Lindbergh HS) batting and the bases loaded, Lubking threw a wild pitch into the dirt, allowing Chinn to score.

Blake Evetts (Fr., RHP, Tigard, OR/Jesuit HS) was credited with the win after pitching the top of the ninth inning for the Bearcats. He is 1-0 on the season. Lubking moved to 0-1 with the loss for PLU.

Pacific Lutheran tallied single runs in each of the first three innings. Willamette stayed close, as Giza belted a leadoff homer well over the right field fence in the bottom of the first and Sky Kelley (Jr., RF, Portland, OR/Jesuit HS) smacked a solo homer in the third inning.

The Lutes extended their 3-2 lead into a 7-2 advantage with four runs in the top of the fourth. Ryan Frost hit a two-RBI single during the inning, while Curtis Wildung walked with the bases loaded and Jaron Iwakami drove in a run with a fielder's choice. Two of the four runs were unearned due to a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt with runners at first and second early in the inning.

WU battled back with an RBI double by Koon in the fifth inning, plus three runs in the seventh. Mitch Rowan (Sr., LF, Cotati, CA/Rancho Cotate HS) opened the seventh with a double to left field. Kelly walked and Koon singled to load the bases.

Semlacher was hit by a pitch to force in Rowan with the first run. Chinn also was hit by a pitch, which allowed Kelley to score. With one out, Gallant brought Koon across the plate with a sacrifice fly to right field.

Pacific Lutheran tacked on a run in the top of the eighth. Frost walked with one out and later scored, with Bo Pearson earning the RBI on a single through the left side. The Lutes' 8-6 lead held until the bottom of the ninth.

Willamette middle reliever Henry Harrison (So., LHP, Nevada City, CA/Nevada Union HS) threw a total of four scoreless innings, giving the Bearcats a chance to come from behind for the win. Harrison allowed just two hits and no runs while earning two strikeouts.

Koon went 3 for 3 at the plate with a double, a run and an RBI, as he matched Chinn for the WU lead in hits. Giza was 2 for 4 and walked twice in addition to his leadoff homer. Brock Gates of PLU went 3 for 4 with a run scored and one RBI. Pearson went 2 for 5 with two RBIs, while Sammy Davis finished 2 for 5 with a run scored.

The victory in a one-run game was a plus for the Bearcats. Last year, WU went 0-6 in one-run games in Northwest Conference play. The Bearcats ended the season at 12-12 in the NWC and were just three games out of second place.

Willamette and Pacific Lutheran will conclude this year's series with a doubleheader on Sunday, March 4. First pitch is set for 11 a.m. (PST).

Willamette University 9
Pacific Lutheran University 8
Brandon Chinn went 3 for 4 and scored the winning run for the Bearcats.

Brandon Chinn went 3 for 4 and scored the winning run for the Bearcats.