By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director
SALEM, Ore. -- Whitworth University, ranked #10 in the D3baseball.com Top 25, scored two runs in the seventh inning and plated one run in the eighth, to rally from a 2-0 deficit and escape John Lewis Field with a 3-2 win over Willamette University on Sunday, April 17. With the victory, Whitworth claimed outright possession of the Northwest Conference title.
The Pirates ended the day at 25-8 overall, including 17-7 in the NWC. Pacific Lutheran University finished second in the NWC at 15-9 after losing to Lewis & Clark College, 6-5, on Sunday. Willamette fell to 18-18 overall and to 11-13 in the NWC (6th place tie).
Willamette led 2-0 after the first inning, including a leadoff homer by Troy Conway (So., 2B, Moorpark, CA/Moorpark HS). It was the first home run of Conway's career with the Bearcats.
One out later, Mason Fessler (So., 3B, Woodburn, OR/Blanchet Catholic School) and Eric Del Prado (So., 1B, El Segundo, CA/Loyola HS) hit consecutive singles. Fessler and Del Prado each advanced one base on a passed ball. Gordie Clary (Sr., RF/LHP, Vacaville, CA/Vacaville HS) followed with a walk on a full-count pitch. The last pitch sailed wide of the catcher and allowed Fessler to score.
Whitworth tied the game with two runs in the seventh inning, including a solo home run by JT Phelan. Jeremy Druffel began the inning with a double that was just fair as it zoomed on the ground past third base. A ground out sent Druffel to third. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Jordan McGowan. Phelan batted next, and hit his fifth homer of the season.
The Pirates tacked on the winning run in the top of the eighth. Catcher Nate Lamberty singled to begin the stanza. He went to second a passed ball. After Casey Isa was hit by a pitch, Daniel Casanova beat out a bunt single toward third. Lamberty scored on a single by Druffel through the left side. A strikeout and a 6-4-3 double play prevented Whitworth from extending the 3-2 lead.
Starting pitcher T.J. Orchard of Whitworth threw eight innings and improved to 6-1 on the season. He allowed nine hits and two runs, while recording four strikeouts and one walk.
Evan Giddings (Sr., RHP, El Cerrito, CA/St. Mary's HS), the third of four pitchers for Willamette, took the loss and fell to 1-1. Bearcat starter Nathan Gilman (Fr., RHP, Chino Hills, CA/ Diamond Ranch HS) threw five scoreless innings and allowed just three hits. He earned four strikeouts and had four walks.
In addition to the double play in the eighth, the Bearcats made a couple of additional solid plays on defense. Perry Van Eckhardt (So., CF, El Cerrito, CA/El Cerrito HS) hauled in a catch at the fence near right center in the top of the fifth. Fessler made a diving catch in foul territory behind third base with one out in the ninth.
Each team registered 10 hits on offense. Del Prado and Connor Bailey (Fr., LF, San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) each went 3 of 4 for Willamette. Druffel was 3 for 5 with a run and an RBI for the Pirates. Joel Condreay of Whitworth went 2 for 3 and walked twice.
The Bearcats will return to action on Saturday, April 16 with a non-conference doubleheader against Pacific University at John Lewis Field. First pitch is set for 12 p.m. (PDT).