Written by Student Assistant Christian Bond
SALEM, Ore. – The 17th-ranked Pacific Lutheran University baseball team took host Willamette University to extra innings on Sunday but ultimately fell short as the Bearcats came away with the 4-3 win on a walkoff balk in the bottom of the 10th to close the Northwest Conference series at John Lewis Field.
Willamette (20-11, 13-5 NWC) jumped out to an early lead, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first. PLU (17-8, 15-6 NWC) answered with two runs in the top of the second. It was the Johnson duo who got the Lutes on the board. With one out, Cole Johnson worked a walk to get on base before Brett Johnson swatted a home run over the left field wall.
"I was looking first pitch, fastball middle in," B. Johnson said. "The pitcher couldn't have thrown that pitch in a more desirable spot. I was able to put a really good swing on the ball and launch it."
PLU used small ball to tie the game at three in the top of the fourth. Again, it was C. Johnson getting on base by drawing a walk. He moved up to second on a wild pitch. B. Johnson walked, and Marques Carlson moved the Johnson's to third and second with one out. Matt Vick flied out to left, allowing C. Johnson to come in and score.
Neither team could generate a run from the fifth inning through the ninth, forcing extras. The Bearcats pushed across the winning score in the bottom of the 10th. Tyler Janitz led off with a walk, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and moved to third on a base hit. Janitz would touch home with two outs for the walkoff win on a balk.
After giving up three runs in the first, the PLU pitching was solid all game long. Johnson got the start, and went six 2/3 innings. He gave up eight hits and five walks, but was able to keep the Bearcats to three earned runs while striking out five. Tanner Zuber was tagged with the loss. He didn't give up a hit, but allowed one run and walked two.
"The pitchers did a good job today," Head Coach Nolan Soete said. "Cole had a quality start, and Zuber and Curran did well out of the pen. Today we failed to produce offensively. Willamette played well this weekend and we did not put all three phases together at any time."
The Lutes will regroup with a non-conference game on Tuesday night at Cheney Stadium against the University of Puget Sound. First pitch is slated for 6 p.m.