By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director
SALEM, Ore. -- Mallory Asaro (Jr., SS, Rocklin, CA/Rocklin HS) of Willamette University blasted a solo home run to center field to open the seventh inning and tie the first game of a doubleheader against Whitworth University on Tuesday, March 29. Willamette won the game 2-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning when Carrie Fox (So., OF, Dupont, WA/Steilacoom HS) hit an infield single with no outs and the bases loaded to drive in Kathryn Moore (So., 3B, Reno, NV/Robert McQueen HS).
Whitworth, ranked #24 in NCAA Division III by the National Softball Coaches Association (NFCA), rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the second game by scoring one run in the fourth inning and adding four runs in the fifth for a 5-2 win.
The Bearcats and the Pirates split the doubleheader and also split the four-game series, which was originally scheduled for earlier this month, but was postponed due to the weather. Willamette is now 12-7 on the season, 8-6 in the Northwest Conference. Whitworth is 19-8 overall, 11-5 in the NWC.
Asaros' Blast Starts Rally for 2-1 Win
Each team left two runners on base in the first inning of the first game. The scoreless tie was broken in the top of the third inning, when Whitworth took a 1-0 lead.
Myranda Ramirez reached first and second with one out after she hit a fly ball that was dropped in right field. Ramirez scored when Chelsey Hayes belted a double to right center. Two ground outs ended the inning.
Moore singled for Willamette with one out in the bottom of the third, and Asaro hit a single with two outs in the fourth inning for the Bearcats, but both runners were left on base.
In the sixth inning, Shannon Wessel of Whitworth singled down the right field line with one out. A ground out by Tessa Matthews advanced Wessel to second. Michelle Silva also grounded out to ended the threat.
Asaro opened the bottom of the seventh with her home run to center. Whitworth pitcher Makayla Lefever retired the next three batters, and the game moved into an extra inning.
Hayes reached first base in the top of the eighth on a fielding error by Steffany Dunn (Jr., SS, Colfax, CA/Colfax HS) with one out. Megan Portlock used a sacrifice bunt to send Hayes to second. Wessell flied out to right field, as pitcher Reanna Lancaster (Fr., LHP, Los Altos, CA/Mountain View HS) kept the score tied at 1-1.
Moore smacked a double to the left field power alley to begin the bottom of the eighth, and moved to third on a pass ball. Saunders walked and stole second base. Shields also walked to load the bases.
Fox drove in Moore with the winning run on a ground ball hit down the third base line. The ball eluded Silva charging in from third, and then went off the glove of Matthews near the foul line.
Moore was 2 for 4 for Willamette. Asaro finished 2 for 2. Hayes led Whitworth by going 2 for 4.
Lancaster improved to 5-1. She struck out four batters, while allowing five hits, one walk and an unearned run. Lefever fell to 11-2 for the Pirates, as she lost in extra innings for the second day in a row. She allowed six hits and four walks. She earned four strikeouts.
Whitworth filed a protest followng the game regarding a play during Fox's at bat prior to the game-winning hit.
Whitworth Rallies with Four Runs in Fifth Inning
The Bearcats created a 2-0 advantage in the first inning of the second game. Ashley Pender (Sr., 2B, Reno, NV/North Valleys HS) smacked a leadoff double that bounced off the fence in left field. Moore hit into an error by Silva at third base which resulted in runners at second and third. After Saunders walked, the bases were loaded for Shields, who hit a two-run single through the right side.
Willamette pitcher Jade Smith (Jr., RHP, Chico, CA/Chico HS) limited the Pirates to a total of two base runners in the first three innings, but Whitworth used two hits to produce a run in the top of the fourth. Hayes singled toward shortstop with one out and Wessel connected for an RBI double with two outs and Hayes at second. Whitworth pulled within 2-1.
The Pirates tacked on four runs in the fifth inning to move into the lead at 5-2. Silva was hit by a pitch to begin the rally. She was sacrificed to second by Desi Graham. Kelsey Downey and Alyssa Hall registered back-to-back singles to bring Silva home. Ramirez singled through the right side to drive in the next two runs. Ramirez scored later in the inning on a fielder's choice by Portlock.
Willamette earned a base runner in each of its final three at bats, but was unable to pull closer.
Pitcher Madi Perez of Whitworth allowed just three hits and two walks. She moved her record to 7-6 on the season. Smith pitched the first five innings and fell to 5-6.
Hall was 2 for 4 with one run and one RBI for Whitworth. Ramirez went 2 for 4 while scoring one run and earning two RBIs. Pender's double led the Bearcats.
Up Next for Willamette
Next on Willamette's schedule is a four-game NWC series against Lewis & Clark College at WU Softball Field on Saturday, April 2 and Sunday, April 3. A doubleheader will be played between the Bearcats and the Pioneers each day, with action beginning at 12 p.m. (PDT).